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Anna Karenina      TV PG, S, D
Airing Mondays, May 20 + 27, 2002, on PBS
(Check local listings.)

Aired previously February 2001

Leo Tolstoy's powerful tale of love and marriage in imperial Russia comes to Masterpiece Theatre in a stunningly modern adaptation of Anna Karenina.

Completed in 1877, Anna Karenina was not the book Tolstoy intended to write. He had been working on a novel about Peter the Great, designed to follow up his spectacular success with War and Peace. But the project went nowhere, and Tolstoy's thoughts turned increasingly to an incident that haunted him: A neighbor's mistress had thrown herself under a train after being jilted by her lover.

From this tragic seed grew a modern epic of sex, duty, marriage, and moral regeneration that many critics consider the greatest novel ever written.

Tolstoy's themes are particularly resonant today, notes executive producer George Faber of Company Television in Britain: "Anna Karenina isn't concerned with observing the minutiae of social etiquette, like Jane Austen, nor with righting social injustices, like Dickens. It's about raw, often uncontrollable passions, emotional and sexual betrayal, mixed-up people with mixed-up lives. It offers no easy solutions or simple moral judgments."

Helen McCrory stars as Anna, literature's most tragic adulteress. Kevin McKidd (Topsy-Turvy, Trainspotting) is Count Vronsky, the handsome cavalry officer who falls hopelessly in love with her. And Tony Award winner Stephen Dillane (The Real Thing; The Rector's Wife and Christabel on Masterpiece Theatre) is Anna's cold-hearted husband, Alexey Karenin, a statesman who is principled to the point of callousness.


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