Anna Karenina
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byJoe Wright
Screenplay byTom Stoppard
Based onAnna Karenina
1878 novel
by Leo Tolstoy
Produced by
CinematographySeamus McGarvey
Edited byMelanie Oliver
Music byDario Marianelli
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 7 September 2012 (2012-09-07) (United Kingdom)
  • 16 November 2012 (2012-11-16) (United States)
Running time
130 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom[2]
  • United States[2]
Budget$40.6 million[3]
Box office$68.9 million[4]

Anna Karenina is a 2012 historical romantic drama film directed by Joe Wright. Adapted by Tom Stoppard from Leo Tolstoy's 1878 novel of the same name, the film depicts the tragedy of Russian aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina, wife of senior statesman Alexei Karenin, and her affair with the affluent cavalry officer Count Vronsky. Keira Knightley stars as the titular character; this is her third collaboration with director Joe Wright following Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007). Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson appear as Karenin and Vronsky, respectively. Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander appear in key supporting roles.

Produced by Working Title Films in association with StudioCanal, the film premiered at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. It was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and on 9 November 2012 in the United States. Anna Karenina earned a worldwide gross of approximately $69 million, mostly from its international run. The film received mostly positive reviews: critics praised the cast, but commented on and criticized the heavily stylized adaptation, and were less enthusiastic with Wright's preference for style over substance and his idea of setting most of the action on a theatre stage.

It earned four nominations at the 85th Academy Awards and six nominations at the 66th British Academy Film Awards, winning Jacqueline Durran both the Academy Award for Best Costume Design and the BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design. In addition, Anna Karenina garnered six nominations at the 17th Satellite Awards, including a Best Actress nod for Knightley and a Best Adapted Screenplay for Stoppard.


In the Russian Empire in 1874, Princess Darya, nicknamed "Dolly", banishes her unfaithful husband Prince Stephan "Stiva" Oblonsky. Stiva's sister, Anna Karenina, a socialite living in Saint Petersburg with her older husband Count Alexei Karenin, and son Seryozha, travels to Moscow to persuade Dolly to forgive her brother.

Stiva meets old friend Konstantin "Kostya" Levin, a landowning aristocrat despised by Moscow's elite for preferring the countryside to city life. Levin says he loves Stiva's sister-in-law, Princess Kitty, and Stiva encourages him to propose. Kitty declines as she hopes to marry Count Alexei Vronsky, a wealthy officer. Levin meets his older brother Nikolai, who has renounced his inheritance and lives as man and wife with Masha, a prostitute. Nikolai suggests that Levin should marry a peasant. On the train, Anna meets Vronsky's mother, Countess Vronskaya, isolated by her own infidelities. Anna meets Vronsky and they are instantly attracted to each other. Anna eventually convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At a ball, Kitty dances once with Vronsky, but throughout the evening he prefers Anna, upsetting Kitty. Vronsky tells Anna he must be wherever she goes.

Back in Saint Petersburg, Vronsky and Anna soon begin to stir gossip. Despite the fact that he has a promotion awaiting him in Tashkent, he refuses it and Anna agrees that she does not want him to leave. They later meet and make love.

Stiva informs Levin that Kitty and Vronsky will not be married. Levin focuses on country life and contemplates marrying a peasant's daughter.

Anna and Seryozha go to the Karenin estate outside Saint Petersburg. Anna visits Vronsky and reveals her pregnancy, and he wants her to leave Karenin. Anna suggests that Karenin come to the horse races but betrays her feelings when Vronsky's horse falls. Afterwards, Anna admits to her husband she is Vronsky's mistress and Karenin says she must renounce him. Levin realises he still loves Kitty. Months later, Anna receives Vronsky. He tells her that his military duties have delayed his visit. Karenin discovers Vronsky visited and steals his letters in order to give himself grounds for a divorce.

Karenin visits Stiva and Dolly to say he is divorcing Anna. They beg him to forgive her, but he refuses. Levin and Kitty, having reunited, announce their love and marry. Anna goes into premature labour and sends for Vronsky, although she later says he could never be the man Karenin is. Karenin returns, believing Anna is dying and forgives her. Anna survives and decides to stay with her husband.

Vronsky persuades Anna to change her mind and they leave for Italy with their daughter, Anya.

Levin and Kitty return to his estate, where a sickly Nikolai lives with Masha in a storeroom. Levin tells Kitty he will send Masha away so Kitty does not have to meet her, but Kitty ignores societal norms to help Masha nurse Nikolai. Levin's love for Kitty grows.

Anna returns to Saint Petersburg for Seryozha's birthday, but Karenin dismisses her. Anna begins to suspect Vronsky of infidelity. She attends the opera with Princess Myagkaya, an outspoken socialite, but the rest of the audience shun her. Humiliated, Anna retains her poise, only to break down at her hotel. She uses morphine to sleep.

Dolly tells her that Kitty is in Moscow to give birth. Dolly says Stiva's behaviour is unchanged, but she has come to accept and love him.

Vronsky informs Anna he must meet his mother for business. Anna becomes upset when Princess Sorokina brings Vronsky back to his home, as she believes Countess Vronskaya wants Vronsky to marry her. Anna returns to Vronsky's estate. On the train, she imagines Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love and laughing at her. Arriving in Moscow, Anna says to herself, "Oh God. Forgive me," and jumps under a train. The scene flashes to a shocked Vronsky.

Levin returns home from work to find Kitty bathing their child. Stiva and his family eat with Levin and Kitty. Karenin, retired, is seen at his estate, with Seryozha and Anya playing.


Pip Torrens and Susanne Lothar play Prince Shcherbatsky and Princess Shcherbatskaya, parents to Dolly and Kitty. Alexandra Roach plays Countess Nordston. Holliday Grainger plays an unnamed Baroness. Cara Delevingne has a non-speaking role as the younger Princess Sorokina.

Bill Skarsgård makes a brief appearance as Makhotin, while Shirley Henderson appears near the end of the film as an outraged theatre patron. Steve Evets plays Theodore, one of the peasants who work for Konstantin.

John Bradley makes an uncredited cameo appearance as an Austrian prince near the start of the film, while Vicky McClure makes an uncredited cameo appearance as a peasant woman who catches Konstantin's eye.


Anna Karenina marked Knightley's third collaboration with director Joe Wright and debut alongside Taylor-Johnson.[5][8]

Joe Wright was hired to direct an adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina, his fourth collaboration with Working Title Films.[6][9] Wright shot most of his film on a single soundstage, representing a dilapidated theatre, at Shepperton Studios outside London.[10][11] Italian composer Dario Marianelli composed the film score, while Jacqueline Durran was the costume designer. Sarah Greenwood was in charge of production design. Wright has worked with all three on past productions, including the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice. Further crew members include cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, editor Melanie Ann Oliver, and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.[6]


The cast includes Keira Knightley as Anna, Jude Law as her husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky,[5][12] and Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson as Konstantin Levin, as well as Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Matthew Macfadyen, Michelle Dockery, and Tannishtha Chatterjee.[7][13][14] Saoirse Ronan and Andrea Riseborough were initially cast in the film, but dropped out and were replaced by Alicia Vikander and Ruth Wilson, respectively. Ronan stated that her reasoning behind turning down the role of Kitty was the film's long production schedule. It would have required her to turn down movie roles from autumn 2011 to late spring 2012, to film a supporting role. By turning down the role, she was able to take the lead roles in Byzantium and The Host.[15] The Borgias star Holliday Grainger had a minor role as Baroness Shilton.


In July 2011, Keira Knightley began rehearsals,[16] in preparation for principal filming which began later in 2011.[17] Filming began in October 2011.[9] The film was distributed by Focus Features in North America and by Universal Pictures International for international markets. The film was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and 9 November 2012 in the United States.[10][18][19]


Main article: Anna Karenina (2012 soundtrack)

Critical reception

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62% based on 194 reviews, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Joe Wright's energetic adaptation of Tolstoy's classic romance is a bold, visually stylized work – for both better and worse."[20] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[21]

Oliver Lyttleton of The Playlist awarded the film a B+ and called the picture a "bold reimagining" of the classic novel, comparing Wright's vision to the films of Powell and Pressburger. He noted how Knightley "continues to go from strength to strength" and also praised Law as "excellent". Even though he speculated that "the film is going to divide people enormously", he concluded it was one to "cherish despite its flaws".[22] Ian Freer of Empire awarded the film four stars out of five and was effervescent in his praise for Wright and the final result: he said "Anna Karenina militantly doesn't want to be just another costume drama; it attacks the heavyweight concerns of Russian literature (hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, the pastoral vs. the urban, huge mustaches) with wit and verve; most exciting of all, it is filmmaking of the highest order, channeling every other art form from painting to ballet to puppetry while remaining completely cinematic". He lauded the entire cast for their work yet concluded that "this is really its director's movie".[23]

In The Observer, Jason Solomons also called Knightley "superb", and declared that the film "works beautifully...[it is] elegant and exciting [and] ...incredibly cinematic".[24] Leslie Felperin of Variety was more reserved in her praise for the film, observing that although Wright "knows how to get the best from Knightley" and noting that the film was technically "glorious", it was also "unmistakably chilly" in the storytelling.[25] The Daily Mirror singled out Knightley as "excellent" and lauded Wright for "offer[ing] a fresh vision of the Tolstoy classic", concluding the picture to be "with its beautiful cinematography and costumes... a real success".[26]

Others were less impressed with the film and Wright's take on such a classic text. The Hertfordshire Mercury conceded that "costumes and art direction are ravishing, and Seamus McGarvey's cinematography shimmers with rich colour", but ultimately found there to be "no obvious method behind this production design madness".[27] Stella Papamichael of Digital Spy also awarded the picture only two stars out of five, commenting that "the third time isn't such a charm for director Joe Wright and muse Keira Knightley". Although she found the actress "luminous in the role" she criticised Wright for "outshining" his star and affecting the narrative momentum by "favouring a glossy look over probing insights into a complicated character".[28] Neil Smith of Total Film also awarded the film two out of five stars, lamenting the fact that Wright's elaborate stage design "pull[s] the attention away from where it should be... [and] keeps [us] at arm's length, forever highlighting the smoke, mirrors and meticulous stage management that have been pressed into service to make his big idea a reality". He also dismissed Knightley's performance as "less involving" than her "similar" turn in The Duchess.[29] Richard Brody of The New Yorker criticized Wright for diverging from Tolstoy, without adding anything beyond superficialities in return: "Wright, with flat and flavorless images of an utterly impersonal banality, takes Tolstoy's plot and translates it into a cinematic language that's the equivalent of, say, Danielle Steel, simultaneously simplistic and overdone."[30]


Award Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards[31] Best Cinematography Seamus McGarvey Nominated
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran Won
Best Original Score Dario Marianelli Nominated
Best Production Design Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Depiction of Nudity, Sexuality, or Seduction Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson Nominated
Movie You Wanted to Love But Just Couldn't Won
British Academy Film Awards[32] Outstanding British Film Joe Wright, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Tom Stoppard Nominated
Best Original Music Dario Marianelli
Best Cinematography Seamus McGarvey
Best Production Design Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran Won
Best Makeup and Hair Ivana Primorac Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards Best Art Direction Katie Spencer
Sarah Greenwood
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran
European Film Awards[33][34][35] Best Production Designer Sarah Greenwood Won
Best Actor Jude Law Nominated
Best Actress Keira Knightley
Best Screenwriter Tom Stoppard
People's Choice Award
Golden Globe Award Best Original Score Dario Marianelli Nominated
Hamptons International Film Festival Breakthrough Performer Domhnall Gleeson
Alicia Vikander
Hollywood Film Festival Hollywood Film Award for Production Designer of the Year Sarah Greenwood
Houston Film Critics Society[36] Worst Film Nominated
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran Won
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Production Design Sarah Greenwood Nominated
Satellite Awards 2012[37] Best Actress – Motion Picture Keira Knightley
Best Adapted Screenplay Tom Stoppard
Best Art Direction and Production Design Thomas Brown
Nick Gottschalk
Sarah Greenwood
Niall Moroney
Tom Still
Best Cinematography Seamus McGarvey
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran
Best Original Score Dario Marianelli

See also


  1. ^ "Anna Karenina (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Anna Karenina (2012)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 23 May 2017. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  3. ^ "Anna Karenina: back from the brink". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  4. ^ "Anna Karenina (2012)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. 28 February 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Pulver, Andrew (9 September 2011). "Keira Knightley confirmed for Joe Wright's Anna Karenina". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d Weinstein, Joshua. "Keira Knightley, Jude Law to Star in 'Anna Karenina'". The Wrap. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lussier, Germain (4 June 2011). "Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina' Welcomes Saoirse Ronan, Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams And More". /Film. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  8. ^ "Production Commences on Anna Karenina". Focus Films (Press release). 3 October 2011. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Production Commences on Anna Karenina". Working Title Films (Press release). 3 October 2011. Archived from the original on 5 February 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  10. ^ a b Jagernauth, Kevin (12 March 2012). "Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina' Starring Keira Knightley Set For November 9th Release". IndieWIRE. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  11. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver (25 January 2012). "Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina' Shot on a Single Location, Promises Experimental Approach to a Familiar Story". IndieWIRE. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  12. ^ "Keira Knightley and Jude Law cast in 'Anna Karenina'". The Independent. 9 September 2011. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  13. ^ "Domhnall Gleeson Lands Role in Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina'". IFTN. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  14. ^ KJha, Subhash (10 October 2011). "Tannishtha Chatterjee joins Jude Law's film". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 13 October 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  15. ^ Shavers Jr., Theron K. "Did You Know?". Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  16. ^ Collinson, Patrick (29 July 2011). "Fancy owning a piece of film history?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  17. ^ Smith, Nigel M. (18 August 2011). "Andrea Riseborough Talks Madonna, RADA and 'Brighton Rock': What's Next". IndieWIRE. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  18. ^ "Joe Wright To Direct 'Anna Karenina' For Focus With Keira Knightley As Lead". Deadline Hollywood. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  19. ^ "Joe Wright to start UK shoot on Anna Karenina this month". Screen Daily. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  20. ^ "Anna Karenina (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  21. ^ "Anna Karenina Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  22. ^ "Review: 'Anna Karenina' Is A Bold Reimagining of a Classic That's (Mostly) Thrilling & Inventive | The Playlist". 31 May 2012. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  23. ^ "Empire's Anna Karenina Movie Review". 5 December 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  24. ^ Solomons, Jason (1 September 2012). "Anna Karenina: Joe Wright's coup de théâtre on Tolstoy's doomed heroine". The Observer. London. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  25. ^ Leslie Felperin. "Anna Karenina". Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  26. ^ Adams, Mark (3 September 2012). "Anna Karenina (12A): Keira's tsar is shining as she nails Tolstoy classic". Daily Mirror. London. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  27. ^ "Anna Karenina (12A, 130 mins)". Hertfordshire Mercury. 4 September 2012. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  28. ^ Papamichael, Stella (2 September 2012). "'Anna Karenina' review: Digital Spy verdict". Digital Spy. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  29. ^ Smith, Neil (3 September 2012). "Anna Karenina review". Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  30. ^ Brody, Richard (16 November 2012). "An 'Anna Karenina' That Forgets Tolstoy". The New Yorker. The Front Row. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  31. ^ "Nominees for the 85th Academy Awards". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  32. ^ "EE British Academy Film Awards Nominations in 2013". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  33. ^ "Winners 2013". European Film Awards. European Film Academy. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  34. ^ "European Film Academy Opens Vote For People's Choice Award 2013". European Film Awards. European Film Academy. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  35. ^ "Nominations 2013". European Film Awards. European Film Academy. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  36. ^ "2012 Houston Film Critics Nominees – Winners". Archived from the original on 21 March 2015. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  37. ^ "2012 Satellite Awards". Indiewire. Retrieved 3 December 2012.