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Novel to Film | The ball

The novel | The script | The film


The ball
From the novel by Leo Tolstoy

excerpted from Part I, Chapter 23

Vronsky and Kitty waltzed several times round the room and then Kitty went to her mother, but hardly had she exchanged a few words with the Countess Nordston before Vronsky returned to fetch her for the first quadrille. Nothing special was said during the quadrille: they talked in snatches about the Korsunskys, husband and wife, whom Vronsky very amusingly described as dear forty-year-old children, and about a projected public theatre, and only once did the conversation touch her to the quick -- when he asked her about Levin, whether he was still in Moscow, and added that he had liked him very much. But Kitty had not expected more from the quadrille, she waited with a clutch in the heart for the mazurka. It seemed to her that the mazurka would settle everything. That he did not ask her for the mazurka while they were dancing the quadrille did not disturb her. She was sure that she would dance the mazurka with him as at previous balls, and she refused five other partners for that dance, saying she was already engaged. The whole ball up to the last quadrille was for Kitty an enchanted dream of gay flowers, sounds, and movements. She only stopped dancing when she felt too tired and had to ask to be allowed to rest. But while dancing the last quadrille with one of the youthful bores whom it would not do to refuse, she happened to be vis-à-vis [across from] Vronsky and Anna. She had not come across Anna since the beginning of the ball, and now she suddenly saw her again in a different and unexpected light. She noticed that Anna was elated with success, a feeling Kitty herself knew so well. She saw that Anna was intoxicated by the rapture she had produced. She knew the feeling and knew its symptoms, and recognized them in Anna-she saw the quivering light flashing in her eyes, the smile of happiness and elation that involuntarily curled her lips, and the graceful precision, the exactitude and lightness of her movements.

"Who is the cause?" she asked herself. "All or only one?" And without trying to help her youthful partner who was painfully struggling to carry on the conversation the thread of which he had lost, as she mechanically obeyed the merry, loud, and authoritative orders of Korunsky, who commanded every one to form now a grand rond, now a chaîne, she watched, and her heart sank more and more.

"No, it is not the admiration of the crowd that intoxicates her, but the rapture of one, and that one is...can it be he?"

Every time he spoke to Anna the joyful light kindled in her eyes and a smile of pleasure curved her rosy lips. She seemed to make effort to restrain these signs of joy, but they appeared on her face of their own accord. "But what of him?" Kitty looked at him and was filled with horror. What she saw so distinctly in the mirror of Anna's face, she saw in him. What had become of his usually quiet and firm manner and the carelessly calm expression of his face? Every time he turned toward Anna he slightly bowed his head as if he wished to fall down before her, and in his eyes there was an expression of submission and fear. "I do not wish to offend," his every look seemed to say, "I only wish to save myself, but I do not know how." His face had an expression which she had never seen before.

They talked about their mutual friends, carrying on a most unimportant conversation, but it seemed to Kitty that every word they said was deciding their and her fate. And, strange to say, though they were talking about Ivan Ivanich, who made himself so ridiculous with his French, and how Miss Eletskaya could have made a better match, yet those words were important for them, and they felt this as well as Kitty. A mist came over the ball and the whole world in Kitty's soul. Only the thorough training she had had enabled and obliged her to do what was expected of her, that is, to dance, to answer questions put to her, to talk, and even to smile. But before the mazurka began, when the chairs were already being placed for it, and several couples moved from the small to the large ballroom, Kitty was for a moment seized with despair. She had refused five men who had asked for the mazurka and now she had no partner for it. She had not even a hope of being asked again just because she had too much success in Society for anyone to think that she was not already engaged for the dance. She must tell her mother that she was feeling ill, and go home, but she had not the strength to do it. She felt herself quite brokenhearted.

She went to the far end of a little drawing room and sank into an easy chair. Her light skirt stood out like a cloud round her slight body; one thin bare girlish arm dropped listlessly and sank into the pink folds of her tunic; the other hand held a fan with which she rapidly fanned her flushed face. But although she seemed like a butterfly just settled on a blade of grass and ready at any moment to flutter and spread its rainbow wings, her heart was crushed with terrible despair.

"And perhaps I am mistaken, perhaps it was nothing of the kind?" And she again recalled all that she had witnessed.

"Kitty, what does this mean?" asked the Countess Nordston, coming up inaudibly over the carpet. "I don't understand it."

Kitty's lower lip trembled, and she rose quickly.

"Kitty, are you not dancing the mazurka?"

"No, no," said Kitty in a voice tremulous with tears.

"He asked her for the mazurka in my presence," said the Countess, knowing that Kitty would understand whom she meant by "him" and "her." "She asked, 'Are you not dancing with the Princess Shcherbatsky?'"

"Oh! it's all the same to me!" replied Kitty. No one but herself understood her situation, because no one knew that she had only a few days ago refused a man whom she perhaps loved, and refused him because she trusted another.


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The ball
From the screenplay by Allan Cubitt


Int balcony. Nikitin's house. Moscow. Night.

Anna: Perhaps we met at your cousin's?

Vronsky: My cousin?

Anna: Princess Tverskaya.

Vronsky: You know Betsy?

Anna: Everyone knows Betsy.

Vronsky: How did you know she was my cousin?

Anna: Well, I know everything about you. Remember?

Vronsky: My mother...

Anna: I know what grades you got when you graduated from Cadet school. I know you saved a woman from drowning when you were a child. . . . I know you fell out of a tree and cut yourself. Here . . .

She touches his face.

Vronsky: Dance with me.

Int ballroom. Nikitin's house. Moscow. Night.
Anna and Vronsky are dancing together. They almost stop to kiss. Anna looks away. They continue to dance. Again they stop.

Int side room. Nikitin's house. Moscow. Night.
Kitty is sitting on her own. Countess Nordston enters.


Countess Nordston: Come on. You're not sitting in here.

She drags Kitty up from the chair.

Countess Nordston: You're going to dance with my partner.

Kitty: No, I don't want to.

Int ballroom. Nikitin's house. Moscow. Night.
Anna and Vronsky dance the mazurka. Again the Prince and Princess look on, mumbling angrily at one another.

We are back to Anna and Vronsky dancing. Countess Nordston brings Kitty into the room and gets Oblonsky to dance with her. Kitty watches Anna and Vronsky. Anna stops dancing and looks at Kitty, realizing what she has done. Kitty is engaged in a stare. The music stops, Vronsky has seen it all. Kitty leaves the room. Nikitin speaks to his guests.


Nikitin: Everybody, everybody, supper is served.


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The ball
From the film


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Novel to Film:
The ball | The race | Levin's doubts



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