A Publication of the Tolstoy Society of North America
September 12, 2016
We already asked leading Tolstoy expert Donna Orwin about her favorite Tolstoy adaptations and this is what she had to say:
"Four outstanding actresses – Greta Garbo (1935, Clarence Brown), 1948 Vivien Leigh (1948, Julian Divivier), Helen McCrory (1998, David Blair), and Keira Knightley (2012, Joe Enright/Tom Stoppard) – play Anna Karenina very differently. Each interpretation corresponds to a different point of view in the novel. To Vronsky when he first sees her, she is Garbo’s mysterious, crystallized goddess. Leigh’s Anna is the sophisticated Petersburg lady worshipped by a star-struck Kitty. To Vronsky later on, and in her own mind, Anna is his slave, drawn to his masculine power and sexuality (McCrory). Knightley’s Anna is a suffering victim. Furthermore, depending on the Anna in these filmic adaptations, supporting actors interpret other characters differently. Kevin McKidd’s Vronsky doesn’t fall under the spell of McCrory’s earthy Anna the way Frederic March (Garbo) does. Basil Rathbone’s Karenin (Garbo) is cool and slightly sinister, while Ralph Richardson’s (Leigh) is more sympathetic. I’m reminded of Tolstoy’s comment that when he was creating the novel, he first thought of Anna, and then the other characters came into being and grouped themselves around her in his mind. And at the same time, Anna gains in complexity in the novel by being refracted through their eyes."