Rollover Information
About the Series Schedule The Archive Learning Resources The American Collection Home Search Shop
Anna Karenina Links and Bibliography The Forum Teacher's Guide Novel to Film A Tolstoy Timeline Who's Who Essays + Interviews Masterpiece Theatre Anna Karenina
Novel to Film [imagemap with 6 links]

Novel to Film | The race

The novel | The script | The film


The race
From the novel by Leo Tolstoy

Excerpted from Part II; This scene is described in three chapters within Part II: 25, from the perspective of the riders and 28 and 29, from the perspective of the viewers:

From Chapter 25
Seventeen officers in all had entered for the steeplechase. It was to take place on the large three-mile elliptical course in front of the pavilion. On that course there were nine obstacles: the brook; a barrier nearly five feet high just in front of the pavilion; a dry ditch; a water-jump; an incline; an Irish bank (one of the most difficult obstacles), consisting of a bank with brushwood on top, beyond which there was another ditch which the horses could not see, so that they had to clear both obstacles or come to grief; then two more water-jumps, and another dry ditch. The winning-post was opposite the pavilion. But the start was not in the ellipse, but about 250 yards to one side of it, and the first obstacle, the dammed-up brook seven feet wide, was there. The riders could either ford or jump it at their discretion.

Three times the riders drew up in line, but each time some one's horse made a false start and they had to line up again. Colonel Sestrin, an expert starter, was already getting angry, but at last, at the fourth try, he shouted "Go!: and the race began.

All eyes and all glasses were turned on the bright group of riders while they were getting into line.

"They have started! They are off!" was heard from every side after the hush of expectation.

Lookers-on, in groups or singly, started running from place to place to get a better view. In the first minute the group of riders began to stretch out and could be seen in twos or threes, and one behind another, approaching the brook. It had looked to the public as if they had all started together, but the riders were aware of a difference of seconds which to them were of great importance.

The excited and over-nervous Frou-Frou lost in the first moment, and several horses started ahead of her, but before reaching the brook Vronsky, who with all his strength was holding back the mare that was tugging at the reins, had easily passed three riders, and ahead of him there was only Makhotin's chestnut Gladiator (whose hind-quarters moved regularly and lightly just in front of him), and in front of all, the exquisite Diana, carrying Kusovlev, who was more dead than alive.

Gladiator and Diana approached the stream together, and almost at the same moment rose above it and flew across to the other side; lightly as if on wings Frou-Frou rose up behind them; but at the moment when Vronsky felt himself raised in the air he suddenly saw, almost under his horse's feet, Kusovlev, who was floundering on the other side of the stream with his Diana (Kusovlev had let go of the reins at the jump and the horse fell, throwing him over her head). These particulars Vronsky learned later, now he only saw that Diana's head or legs might come just where Frou-Frou had to alight. But Frou-Frou, like a falling cat, made an effort with her legs and back while in the air, and clearing the other horse rushed on.

"Oh, you darling!" thought Vronsky.

After crossing the brook Vronsky had the mare quite under control, and held her in, intending to cross the big barrier behind Makhotin and then to try and pass him on the flat 300 yards before the next obstacle.

The big barrier was right in front of the Imperial Pavilion. The Emperor, the whole Court, and crowds of people were all looking at them -- at him and at Makhotin, who was a full length ahead of him when they approached the Devil (as the solid barrier was called). Vronsky felt eyes directed toward him from all sides, but he saw nothing except the ears and neck of his mare, the ground racing toward him, and Gladiator's hind-quarters and white legs rapidly striding before him, and keeping always the same distance ahead. Gladiator rose without touching anything, swished his short tail, and disappeared from Vronsky's sight.

"Bravo!" shouted a single voice.

Just then the boards of the barrier flashed close before Vronsky's eyes. Without the least change in her action his mare rose under him; the boards disappeared, only behind him there was a knock. Excited by the fact that Gladiator was in front, the mare had risen at the barrier a little too soon and had struck it with a hind hoof. But her pace did not change, and Vronsky, hit in the face by a lump of mud, realized that he was again at the same distance behind Gladiator. He again saw before him that horse's hind-quarters, short tail and flashing white legs, no farther away.

At the very moment that Vronsky thought it time to pass Makhotin, Frou-Frou, understanding what was in his mind, without any urging, considerably increased her speed and began to draw nearer to Makhotin on the side where it was most advantageous to pass him -- the side of the rope. Makhotin would not let her pass that side. Vronsky had just time to think of coming up on the outside, when Frou-Frou changed her legs and started to do so. Frou-Frou's shoulder, which was already growing dark with sweat, was on a level with Gladiator's hind-quarters. They ran side by side for a few strides, but before the obstacle they were approaching, Vronsky, not to lose ground, gave the mare her head and just on the declivity passed Makhotin. He caught sight of his mud-bespattered face, and even thought he saw him smile. He passed, but felt that Makhotin was close behind him, and continually heard just behind his back the regular beating of hoofs and the short, still fresh breathing of Gladiator's nostrils.

The next two obstacles, a ditch and a fence, were easily passed, but Vronsky heard Gladiator's galloping and snorting closer. He urged on his mare and felt with joy that she easily increased her speed, and he heard the sound of Gladiator's hoofs again at the former distance behind.

Vronsky now had the lead, as he has wished and as Cord had advised, and he was confidence of success. His excitement and joy, and his tenderness for Frou-Frou, grew stronger and stronger. He wished to glance round but dared not do so, and he tried to keep calm and not to urge his mare, but to let her retain a reserve of strength such as he felt that Gladiator still had.

There remained the most difficult obstacle; if he crossed it ahead of the others, he would come in first. He was galloping up to the Irish bank. He and Frou-Frou both saw the bank while still some way off, and to both of them came a momentary doubt. He noticed the m mare's hesitation by her ears and raised his whip, but immediately felt that his doubt was groundless: the mare knew what was wanted, and, as he expected, she increased her speed, took off exactly at the right moment, and gave a leap the force of which carried her far across the ditch. Then without effort and without changing her legs Frou-Frou continued her gallop.

"Bravo, Vronsky!" he heard the voices of a knot of people he knew -- friends of his regiment -- who were standing by this obstacle. He could not fail to recognize Yashvin's voice, though he did not see him.

"Oh, my beauty!" he thought of Frou-Frou, as he listened to what was happening behind. "He is over it!" he thought, as he heard Gladiator again galloping behind him. There remained one last water jump, only a yard and a half wide. Vronsky did not even look at it, but hoping to win by a distance, began working the reins with a circular movement, raising and dropping the mare's head in time with her stride. He felt she was using her last reserve of strength; ;not only her neck and shoulders were wet, but on her withers, her head, and her pointed ears the sweat stood in drops, and she was breathing short and sharp. But he knew that her reserve of strength was more than enough for the remaining five hundred yards. It was only by feeling himself nearer to the ground and by the smoothness of the pace that Vronsky knew how much the mare had increased her speed. She leapt the ditch as if she did not notice it, seeming to fly across it like a bird. But at that very moment Vronsky, to his horror, felt that something terrible had happened. He himself, without knowing it, had made the unpardonable mistake of dropping back in his saddle and pulling up her head. Before he could realize this, the white legs of the gelding flashed close by him and Makhotin passed at a rapid gallop. Vronsky was touching the ground with one foot. He scarcely had time to free his leg before Frou-Frou fell on her side, and snorting heavily and with her delicate damp neck making vain efforts to rise, began struggling on the ground at his feet, like a wounded, fluttering bird. Owing to Vronsky's awkward movement she had dropped her hind legs and broken her back. But he only understood this much later. Now he only saw that Makhotin was quickly galloping away, while he, reeling, stood alone on the muddy, stationary ground; before him, breathing heavily, lay Frou-Frou, who, bending her head toward him, gazed at him with her beautiful eyes. Still not understanding what had happened, Vronsky pulled at the reins. The mare again began to struggle like a fish, causing the flaps of the saddle to creak; she got her front legs free, but unable to lift her hind-quarters, struggled and immediately again fell on her side.

His face distorted with passion, pale and with quivering jaw, Vronsky kicked her with his heel in the belly and again pulled at the reins. But she did not move and, nuzzling the ground, only look at her master with eloquent eyes.

"Ah, ah, ah!" groaned Vronsky, seizing his head. "Ah! what have I done?" he exclaimed. "The race is lost! And the fault mine -- shameful and unpardonable. And this dear, unfortunate mare ruined! Ah! what have I done!"

Onlookers, a doctor, an attendant, and officers of his regiment ran toward him. To his regret he felt that he was himself sound and unhurt. The mare had broken her back and it was decided to shoot her. Vronsky was unable to reply to questions or to speak to anyone. He turned away and, without picking up his cap that had fallen from his head, left the racecourse without knowing where he was going. He felt miserable. For the first time in his life he experienced the worst kind of misfortune -- one that was irretrievable, and caused by his own fault.

Yashvin overtook him with his cap and led him home, and in half an hour Vronsky came to himself. But the memory of that steeplechase long remained the most painful and distressing memory of his life.



From Chapter 28
"Alexey Alexandrovich!" the Princess Betsy called to him, "I am sure you don't see your wife; here she is!"

He smiled his usual cold smile.

"There is so much splendor here that my eyes are dazzled," he replied, and approached the stand. He smiled at Anna as a husband should smile when meeting his wife whom he h as seen shortly before, and greeted the Princess and other acquaintances, giving to each what was due -- that is to say, joking with the ladies and exchanging greetings with the men. At the foot of the stand stood an adjutant-general respected by Karenin, and noted for his intelligence and education. With him Karenin entered into conversation.

There was an interval between two races, so that nothing hindered the conversation. The adjutant-general disapproved of the races. Karenin replied, defending them. Anna heard his high measured voice and did not miss a single word. Each word seemed to her false and grated painfully on her ear.

When the three-mile steeplechase was beginning she leaned forward, and did not take her eyes of Vronsky while he went up to his horse and mounted it, and at the same time she heard her husband's repulsive, unceasing voice. She was tormented by anxiety for Vronsky, but suffered even more from what seemed to her the incessant flow of her husband's shrill voice with its familiar intonations.

"I am a bad woman, a ruined woman," she thought, "but I dislike lies. I cannot stand falsehood, but his food is falsehood. He knows everything, sees everything -- what then does he feel, if he can talk so calmly? If he were to kill me, and if he were to kill Vronsky, I should respect him. But no, lies and propriety are all he cares about," said Anna to herself, without considering what she really wanted of her husband or what she would have liked him to be. Nor did she understand that Karenin's peculiar volubility, which so irritated her, was only an expression of the anxiety and unrest within him. As a child that has been hurt skips about, making its muscles move in order to dull its pain, so Karenin needed mental activity to smother those thoughts about his wife which in her presence and in the presence of Vronsky, and amid the continual mention of his name, forced themselves upon him. And as it is natural for the child to skip about, so it was natural for him to speak cleverly and well. He said: "The danger in military, that is, cavalry, steeplechases is an unavoidable element of the racing. If England can point to the most brilliant cavalry charges in military history, it is entirely due to the fact that she has historically developed this capacity in her men and horses. Sport in my opinion has great value, but we, as usual, see only what is most external."

"Not external at all," said Princess Tverskaya. "They say one of the officers has broken two ribs."

Karenin smiled his usual smile, which showed his teeth but expressed nothing.

"Granted, Princess," said he, "that that is not external, but internal. But that is not the point," and he again turned to the General with whom he was talking seriously: "Do not forget that it is military men who are racing, men who have chosen that career, and one must admit that every calling has a reverse side of its medal. It is directly involved in their military duty. The monstrous sports of prize-fighting, or the Spanish bull-fights, are indications of barbarism, but specialized sport is a sign of progress."

"No, I shan't come again; it excites me too much," said the Princess Betsy. "Don't you think so, Anna?"

"It is exciting, but one cannot tear oneself away," said another lady. "If I had been a Roman, I should never have missed a gladiatorial show."

Anna said nothing, but without putting down her glasses looked steadily at one point.

At that moment, a highly-placed general made his way through the stand. Interrupting his speech, Karenin rose hurriedly, but with dignity, and bowed low to this general.

"You are not racing," said the latter to him jokingly.

"My race is a harder one," replied Karenin respectfully.

And though the answer did not mean anything, the general made as though he had heard a clever reply from a clever man, and quite appreciated la point de la sauce.

"There are two sides to it," continued Karenin, "that of the performers and that of the spectators. The love of such spectacles is the surest proof of low development in the onlookers, I admit, but..."

"Princess, a bet!" came the voice of Oblonsky from below, addressing Betsy. "Whom are you backing?"

"Anna and I are betting on Kuzovlev," replied Betsy.

"And I on Vronsky. A pair of gloves?"

"All right."

"What a fine scene, is it not?"

Karenin was silent while others were speaking near him, but began again immediately.

"I agree that unmanly sports..." he was continuing.

But at that moment the race began and all conversation ceased. Karenin was silent too, as everybody rose and turned their eyes toward the stream. Karenin was not interested in the races and therefore did not watch the riders, but began absent-mindedly looking at the spectators with his weary eyes. His gaze rested on Anna.

Her face was pale and stern. She evidently saw nothing and nobody, with on exception. Her hand convulsively grasped her fan and she held her breath. He looked at her and hurriedly turned away, scrutinizing other faces.

"Yes that lady -- and those others -- are very excited too; it is quite natural," he said to himself. He did not wish to look at her, but his eyes were involuntarily drawn toward her. He again watched her face, trying not to read what was so plainly written on it, but against his will he read in it with horror that which he did not want to know.

The first fall -- Kuzovlev's at the stream -- excited every one, but Karenin saw clearly by Anna's pale, triumphant face that he whom she was watching had not fallen. When after Makhotin and Vronsky had jumped the big barrier the officer following them fell on his head and swooned, a murmur of horror passed through the whole crowd; but Karenin saw that Anna did not even notice the fall and with difficulty understood what those around her were talking about. He looked at her more and more often, and more intently. Anna, though fully engrossed by the sight of the galloping Vronsky, became aware of the cold eyes of her husband bent upon her from one side.

She glanced for an instant at him with a look of inquiry, and slightly frowning, turned away again.

"Oh, I don't care," she seemed to say to him, and then did not once look at him again.

The steeplechase was unlucky: more than half of the seventeen officers were thrown and hurt. By the end of the race every one was disturbed, and this disturbance was increased by the fact that the Emperor was displeased.



From chapter 29
Every one was loudly expressing disapproval and repeating the words some one had uttered: "They will have gladiators and lions next," and every one was feeling the horror of it, so that when Vronsky fell and Anna gave a loud exclamation, there was nothing remarkable about it. But afterwards a change came over Anna's face which was positively unseemly. She quite lost self-control. She began to flutter like a captive bird, now rising to go, now addressing Betsy.

"Let us go!" she said.


back to top

The race
From the screenplay by Allan Cubitt


Ext/Int grandstand. Peterhof. Afternoon.
Camera moves down to the grandstand on to Karenin and Oblonsky walking in to the Grandstand.


Betsy: Alexey, we're here!

Karenin turns around and moves towards them.

Betsy: Stiva!

Camera moves around the stand.
Oblonsky sits next to Betsy.


Oblonsky: Ah, there you are. Princess.

Karenin: (OOV) There's so much splendor here, I was temporarily dazzled.

Karenin kisses Betsy's hand. Cut to Karenin who kisses Anna's hand.

Karenin: Anna.

Cut to Karenin turned to his seat.
Anna looks at him.


Ext race course. Peterhof. Day.
Yashvin helps Vronsky on the horse.
Yashvin holds the bridle.


Yashvin: Remember. Don't hold her back and don't urge her on the fence. Let her have her way.

Vronsky looks up at Anna.

Int Grandstand. Peterhof. Day.


Oblonsky: (OOV) Now, a bet.

Oblonsky: Who do you fancy?

Cut to Betsy.

Betsy: Anna favors Kuzovlev, I'm for Makhotin.

Anna looks up.

Oblonsky: Well, I'm for Vronsky. A pair of kid gloves?

Betsy: Done.

Cut to riders and Vronsky on his horse, Riding past the stand.

Betsy: (OOV) I don't think I'll come next year.

Oblonsky: (OOV) Why?

Betsy: (OOV) It excites me too much.

Cut to Karenin
Oblonsky laughs.


Karenin: Danger is an essential element in the racing of cavalrymen.

Cut to riders and Vronsky trotting past.

Karenin: (OOV) English cavalry charges are the most brilliant in history (IN) precisely because her men and her horses have developed daring through sport.

Karenin looks to Anna. Betsy looks towards the race. Oblonsky looks to Anna. They all look on the race.

Ext grandstand. Race course. Peterhof. Afternoon.
A man stands by the side of the riders with a flag upheld. The riders move forward.
Drum roll.
Cut to Anna who looks on.
Cut to Vronsky who looks back.

The race begins. Now cuts between the grandstand and the race course. Crowd clapping and jeering the riders on throughout the race. Vronsky tries to take first place, he is approaching a ditch, his horse flies over it and Vronsky falls back into the saddle, which takes his horse down. The crowd cry out and stand up. Anna pushes her way to the rail.


Anna: Alexey!


back to top

The race
From the film


Play QuickTime   Play RealVideo

 • Go to apple.com to download
   the free QuickTime player.

 • Go to real.com to download
   the free RealPlayer plugin.



Essays + Interviews | Who's Who | A Tolstoy Timeline
Novel to Film | Teacher's Guide | The Forum | Links and Bibliography

Home | About The Series | The American Collection | The Archive
Schedule & Season | Feature Library | eNewsletter | Book Club
Learning Resources | Forum | Search | Shop | Feedback

WGBH Logo PBS logo

©


Masterpiece is sponsored by: