Watch: Six Minute Clip from 'Anna Karenina'

Aaron Johnson and Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina
Aaron Johnson and Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina
Photo: Focus Features

Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) recently premiered a six minute clip from Anna Karenina, his upcoming adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel of the same name. In introducing the clip on Film 4, Wright discusses the fascinating approach he took to the feature:

"Just as the Russian aristocracy of the 19th century could be described as living upon a stage, our story unfolds in a dilapidated theatre. We shot almost all of the film in this single location, over 100 sets were built within the theater, creating a kind of fluid linearity. You can walk from one house under the stage, straight onto the horse-training ground, or go through a door and there's a Russian landscape."

In the clip you'll see the three principals, which include Keira Knightley in the title role along with Jude Law as Alexei Karenin and Aaron Johnson as Count Vronsky. Co-starring in the feature, which hits theaters on November 9, are Kelly Macdonald, Matthew MacFadyen, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson, Olivia Williams and Ruth Wilson.

The film is certainly being eyed as an early contender for Best Picture and with tomorrow morning's anticipated announcement of the Toronto Film Festival line-up, I'm personally hoping to see its name included so as to get an early look at what Wright has put together.

Give the clip a watch directly below and let me know what you think in the comments.

[via YouTube]

  • Greg Dinskisk

    Beautiful score... I think this will not get an oscar nom, and be like "A DANGEROUS METHOD;" great reviews of everything, but no nominations for it. Why? I don't know. A feeling I have. Looks fantastic though!

  • chewbaca69

    Man, I watched about 90 seconds and even then you can just feel Wright's sense of pacing and just how great his decisions are. Can't wait.

  • Karenina Fan

    The tone of this feels very different from the book, and I don't like it. Keira Knightly is not playing Anna very well in this scene. Anna was utterly composed in public at this point in the book, and Keira is playing her like a giddy schoolgirl.

    • Carol

      I agree with Karenina Fan. I like the production values. I don't like the Anna character. She seems guilty and silly and unbelievable. She isn't as composed as in the book. The characters in general seem over-dramatic. I don't like the music behind the scene, either.

    • orangesky

      I agree... I feel like these movie versions of Anna Karenina are made by people who have never read the novel.

      I don't dislike Keira Knightley, but I was afraid she'd play the role just this way, and it's WRONG. She has too much of a spunky, rebellious vibe when the Anna in the novel is a mature, thoughtful, composed motherly type.

      Vronsky is being played wrong also. This guy seems like some kind of mysterious seducer when Vronksy in the novel seems like a confident but somewhat simple & straightforward man.

      I will give it to Jude Law - I think he is playing Karenin perfectly & they did a good job of disguising his good looks even.

      No doubt Levin's presence will be diminished in the film even though his internal dialogue MAKES the novel, for me anyway. Films always try to make this a love story when it is not....

      • Margaret Thatcher’s purse

        Look up the dictionary definition of "adaptation" This is not a reproduction of the novel, it is an adaptation. Enough with the whining. Clearly, Wright has re-imagined the character to fit his overarching motive, just like he did with Elizabeth Bennet. This is NOT THE BOOK. The book has not been tampered with, I promise you. You can go back to it and read a composed and matured Anna. No one will ever change that ok? As an avid fan of the book, I would Wright's re-imagining. What I love most about this clip is the contrast between the lush and overly theatrical ballroom scene with the more personal, real and emotionally intense confrontation scene between Anna and Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin at home. I really like what Wright is doing here. It says a lot about the public and private lives of the Russian aristocrats. I hope it shows at Toronto too and I also hope it goes to Venice.

        Thanks for the update Brad.

        • Orangesky

          No need to be sarcastic & talk to me like I'm an idiot. Just because someone has a different opinion from you & is critical of something you like doesnt make them whiny. Many adaptions of Anna Karenina have been done & they are usually done in this vein. I don't expect a film to play out exactly like a novel, but Anna Karenina is always done in such a way where they take the basic plot about Anna & Vronsky and turn it into a cliche tragic love story. That's what I see here (so far) and it's been done before. The way Keira Knightley plays the character is boring because it's another movie cliche for a heroine to be played that way. The character in the novel comes across as more complex and unique compared to that cliche. It would simply be cool if a film actually attempted that character & the tone of the novel instead of taking the predictable route. Many adaptations of novels succeed in capturing their essence without being done verbatim. No one has yet to do so with Anna Karenina, but this sort of version of it has been done, albeit not quite as flashy.

  • Cri

    almost surreal. and why Vronskj's blonde? too little russian...
    can't wait the same

  • Kimberly

    I was unsure about Keira being cast as Anna, since in my mind Keira is British and only British. But she seems to pull off a different air than in her previous movies, and from these 6 minutes I think I'm satisfied with her being Anna.

  • Stepan Arkadyich Oblonsky

    I was disappointed. I don't feel the sympathy for Anna that the book evoked and Vronsky seems like a buffoon.

  • Laura Mattson

    I agree with Cri, a little surreal, didn't like Vronski -- could it ever measure up to the book? I just don't know. Keira should be much more composed and in control at this point in the story.

  • Dominique

    So British, so Wright... either you love it or hate it...personally I adored what I saw and heard and felt ...can't wait to enjoy the whole movie, over and over...

  • Fatih Gokmen Istanbul

    it is certainly Anna but not Anna Karenina!

  • Rebecca

    This is what would have happened if Hemingway had written "Anna Karenina." Do not want.

  • Ildi

    The movie is not Tolstoy!It's not representing the russian people.Wrong casting!

  • anon

    you forgot to credit for the upload...

  • Emma

    This clip makes me sad. The casting is ridiculous; matters of taste re: celebrities aside, no one in this clip reflects their counterpart in the book. At all.

    This is possibly the greatest book ever written, and from this clip Wright turns Tolstoy's highly intelligent text and exploration of raw emotion into a farce.

    And why the unnecessarily stylisation? Unbelievably pretentious.

    Wright has completely missed the point.

    I hope no one lets him near Middlemarch.

    • Margaret Thatcher’s purse

      Here we go again. Pretentious Anna Karenina enthusiasts are asking for Wright's head. Deja vu anyone? I remember you nut cases roaring like savages when he did Pride and Prejudice. How did that pan out for you?

  • Eoin Daly

    Just looking at about 20 seconds of Michelle Dockery I just wonder if she played Anna it would so much better because Dockery is the standout of the 6 minutes.

    • orangesky

      I thought the same! She had a better vibe for Anna... Although I found Jude Law to do Karenin justice also. They were believable...the other two silly & overdone.

    • Margaret Thatcher’s purse

      high brow and haughty? how is that a stand out? some of you are utterly ridiculous, so ridiculous I can't help but cackle madly.

    • me

      meh.. Downton Abbey freack detected.seriously Michelle D as Anna Karenina? NO WAY

  • sophia burki

    Its my favourite book and favourite writer.Anna was totally different in my mind and so was Vronski.I always wanted to see a movie so that I can relate to what ever I had in my mind.Not truly satisfied.

  • fyca

    What in the world was that? Certainly it had nothing to do with my favorite novel. I only made it through half the clip and will not be at the theatres for this one. It was pure silliness, and as someone wrote above, a farce. I feel dirty and sad now, and need to go upstairs to read a page or two to get that out of my mind. For shame.

  • MonsterMom

    I do not like Keira Knightly at Anna, her face has no expression and she doesn't seem to carry the depth of emotion and internal conflict that Anna has, I was afraid I would be disappointed when I read the casting.

  • Jess

    Ever seen that Marie Antoinette film by Sofia Coppola? Yes, that comedy-drama that won for Best Costume Design? Yes, this is basically that film, just set in Russia instead of France and just as trivialized with over-attention on exaggerated costumes and ill-cast actors.
    I was prepared for disappointment when I clicked play. Lets be honest, film adaptations never live up to the reader's expectations. But this is just ridiculous. Seriously, is this a joke? The casting of Kiera Knightley is so predictable that it is a brazen disregard for characters being portrayed by the most fitting actors. They are more concerned with how Kiera Knightley's star power will bring in the box office profit.
    It's like the casting department said, "Hey, Kiera Knightley usually does these foreign, old world movies playing the psuedo femme fatale female lead (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, The Duchess). Let's just do the most predictable thing possible and type cast her for a role that is far more complex than we care to appreciate or even acknowledge!" Golly, I can't wait to watch bubbly, ill at ease Kiera Knightley play what is supposed to be a composed, mature, deeply conflicted Russian socialite.
    Additionally, why is this film cast with strictly English actors when the book was written in Russian and the setting of the book is in Russia?
    As for the style... what the hell were they thinking with the surrealism? I seriously though to myself, "I don't remember the book being this stupid." Count Vronsky looks ridiculous with his campy fake blonde?? hair and the other exaggerated costume design. I don't know about anyone else, but I think the feel of the film really would have benefited from strictly realistic costume design. The way it is now I can't take it seriously.
    I'm all for creative film adaptation. But when it strays so far from the book that it doesn't get anything right, I don't see how this can satisfy any Anna Karenina fans.
    The book is fatalistic. Adapt it in film as such.

    • Deena Jones’ wig

      Wa wa wa wa whine whine whine

    • MonsterMom

      Why is it so hard to find a beautiful actress in her 40's (that hasn't Botoxed the crap out of her face) and actually has a range of emotion. I won't even rent this.

  • Erum Gul

    I am not at all satisfied with Anna's and Vronsky's character in the film. They both seem so unreal while the characters Tolstoy created were very real.

  • Deena Jones’ wig

    Another gang of fake Tolstoy enthusiasts claiming to have supreme authority over what works in adaptations. The irony is a lot of you have probably only read cliff notes and are now trying to pass as Tolstoy critics. Only on the Internet. Take a moment to look up the definition of "adaptation." This movie was never for close-minded purists. The same thing happened with pride & prejudice; the purists were appalled but the movie found a huge audience because Wright was able to reimagine authentic, inventive and refreshing characters. I'll see you obnoxious whiners at the Oscars

    • Jess

      @Deena Jones' Wig: I don't think there would be such passionate responses to this 6 minute clip if we were all just posers who briefly read cliff notes and called it a day... In fact, those who did just read cliff notes are probably going ape shit over this new adaptation because they aren't able to see what this film is lacking and what makes the book a masterpiece.

      That being said...
      The book changed the way I see life. Strangely enough, it made me realize how I seek happiness only through material possession.
      I think it does different things for different people. My friend said it made him try to be a more compassionate person (I'm guessing from Kitty's story.)

    • orangesky

      Clearly you are "Margaret Thatcher's purse" and perhaps the director's mom as well, since you strangely spew venom at anyone who dare critique his work.

      You make many assumptions about the people commenting here... I for one liked this director's version of Pride & Prejudice, found the casting mostly well done, & actually found it to stay close to the novel (in its TONE; I think you may need to look that word up to understand people are not asking for an identical rendering of the novel but something which reflects its essence).

      This is NOT simply a matter of the novel not being done "accurately"; it's a matter of it being turned into a cliche, with style over substance. Yes, these critiques are based on the clip, and if the rest of the movie is better than this, then great. However, the people behind this movie chose to release this clip & clips are what will make people see or not see a film.

  • Isabel

    Everything looks beautiful, the costumes, the sets, the actors....yet I do not like it one bit. I grew up with Anna Karenina, reading the book again and again, reading Leo Tolstoi's letters and thoughts about is own novel. The love story was not the center of the book and Anna and Wronski are very common and boring the author himself wrote, and I couldn't agree more. Lewin's search for a true meaning in life is way more interesting than these two...and all the talented actors are totally miscast, at least to me, even if it's an adaptation only. No, I won't watch...I'm bored stiff after this clip.

    • Margaret Thatcher’s purse

      Maybe you should watch the EW video exclusive first

      Lewin's search for true meaning is featured prominently in this exclusive. We see him turning his back on the theatrical and lush ballroom and moving into a more realistic world with dirt-covered peasants and corn fields.

      I am surprised and how some of you are easily dismissing this movie based on a 6 minute clip. "Purists" will always find something to whine about. How about you don't watch the movie and re-read the book instead? that's if you guys ever read the book in the first place. Do just that. No one will tamper with Tolstoy's words on the page so you won't have to whine about Keira Knightley not being too composed enough or Aaron's blonde hair or why the sky is blue. In fact, all of you guys can avoid Anna Karenina threads. We can definitely benefit from the lack of negativity. Cheers!!

      • WN

        Levin is not featured "prominently"; Anna is, but Levin certainly is not. It's barely an afterthought that claims maybe two seconds of screen time.

        I don't think any of the people commenting here are being negative. They are making valid critical points, and enduring criticism is exactly what Wright should expect when he takes on a literary behemoth like this.

        (And why keep accusing people of not having read the book? They're taking time to comment on a post--something I have done only a couple times in my life--and they're almost all anonymous. They're gaining absolutely nothing by saying they've read it.)

        I, like most people commenting, am a die-hard fan of the novel. I enjoyed watching the clip, and though certain elements didn't ring exactly true to me, overall I felt a thrill at seeing this story I adore so much played out in a different medium and under a new director.

        The purists are not being critical just for the sake of being critical; they're genuinely invested in these characters and want to share their opinions. I, for one, enjoyed reading them.

        To the purists: I'm holding Jude Law at arm's length. While his Karenin was stately, he didn't seem cold enough. I unabashedly love Vronsky as a blond--I think it's as inspired a choice as one can make with an actor's hair color.

  • jill

    This looks bad. Overly dramatic and poorly casted.

  • loki54

    Contrived. I love Keira Knightly and the director but this looks painfully ridiculous. The staging, the pacing, especially the acting. Now I'm just going to skip it all together.