Channel4: PREMIERE Saturday 6 June, 9pm
Following in the footsteps of Greta Garbo (1935), Vivien Leigh (1948), and Sophie Marceau (1997), Keira Knightley is Leo Tolstoy’s neurotic high-society heroine in 19th-century St Petersburg. This is just what the world needs, another Anna Karenina, and so soon after Bernard Rose’s 1997 effort (the first non-Russian production to be filmed in Russia). Funny thing is, none of the film versions have been much cop although this one, in which Atonement director Joe Wright adopts an artifical theatrical tone á là Max Ophüls’ Lola Montès, is certainly ambitious. But it’s ultimately undone by sophisticated source material that becomes maudlin when it’s pulped down from 800-pages. Even when the man adapting the novel is playwright Tom Stoppard. Which means, of course, it was prestigious enough to score at the Academy Awards. A Best Costume Design Oscar for Anna Karenina – big surprise there, for a costume drama. Actually it’s Dario Marianelli’s music that’s most impressive, evoking Tchaikovsky by adapting an old Russian folk song, In a Field Stood a Birch Tree.