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Anna Karenina
updated 11.5.2003

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I felt that this Masterpiece Theatre production of Anna Karenina was absolutely wonderful! I think that the casting was superb. I thought the acting was fantastic, especially the two leads, Vronsky and Anna.

I think some of the critics were way off by harshly judging the looks of the leads. When I first saw Helen McCrory as Anna, I too felt that she didn't really look too great. However, she has the type of beauty that, at first glance, one doesn't think is anything special. However, as the movie progresses, especially in the second part, Helen McCrory's immense physical beauty really does shine through. In my experience, this is the kind of beauty that lasts. In fact, I think that this is exactly what Tolstoy had in mind with regards to Anna's looks. In the novel, when Vronsky first meets Anna at the train station, he feels compelled to look at her. Vronsky says he "felt he must glance at her once more; not that she was very beautiful, not on account of the elegance and modest grace which were apparent in her whole figure, but because in the expression of her charming face, as she passed close by him, there was something peculiarly caressing and soft." It is only as the novel progresses that Vronsky's sense of Anna's beauty is heightened, and that is exactly what happens in this movie. If all of these critics really knew what they were talking about, they'd realize that Helen McCrory was perfectly cast as Anna.

The male lead, Kevin McKidd, is also breathtaking as Vronsky. He rightly displays Vronsky's handsomeness and elegance, and his deep love and sense of despair over Anna's increasingly erratic behavior.

This Masterpiece Theatre version of the novel so deeply moved me that I was compelled to buy the book and have also seen two other versions of the novel. I saw the one with Sophie Marceau in the lead, and the one with Vivien Leigh in the lead. I found them both to be shallow and to have merely glossed over the book, without even beginning to touch on the depth and emotion of the novel. However, your version does a superb job on all counts. Keep up the great work!

Fardosa Yusuf
Ottawa, ON

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Thank you, Masterpiece Theatre, for once again bringing us a superb production. Life is never as perfectly staged as a film, and once I got used to the shaky camera effect, I found it quite refreshing, as were the tastefully done love scenes. It is completely possible to convey passion and urgency without making it trashy. As one viewer commented, I did have to listen very closely at times to catch all the dialogue. Helen McCrory did a marvelous job of "coming unglued," as Anna crumbles under the pressures of societal shunning and separation from her son. Kevin McKidd was also excellently cast, conveying Vronsky's deep devotion with growing frustration at Anna's behavior. Who needs Hollywood's silver screen? If I were stranded on a desert island, all I'd require would be a tv/vcr and a complete archive of Masterpiece Theatre!

Pamela Myers
Glen Rock, PA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
In the Orthodox Church the language of Holy Scriptures is not Latin! The priest should have used Russian, not Latin! It's actually comical because a 19th-century Russian priest would have protested his being confused with a Catholic priest. Ever since the Great Schism these two churches don't see eye to eye. Actually this "faux pas" is consistent with the questionable quality of this production. I'm a huge fan of your show. But Russian sensibility is not at home at BBC, apparently.

Ioana Singureanu

This version of Anna Karenina was actually produced by Company Pictures for Channel Four and not the BBC.

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I saw Anna Karenina by chance, browsing through channels. I could not take my eyes off it. I think this is the best version so far (including a Soviet one, which I have a high regard for). This is the first Western movie that I know of that captures Russian life in its spirit. It seems like we (Russia and the West) are finally beginning to understand each other. I plan to take the tape with me to Moscow and recommend it for study at Moscow State University. Congratulations to the crew on the great production!

Olga Tchoumakova
State College, PA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
When I was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota theater department, 1967-70, our head costumer was a stickler for authenticity. When I asked her why she bothered to research the actual shields of arms of the characters in Henry IV, Part I, she replied that there was always someone in the audience who would know if you got it wrong.

Your production of Anna Karenina was emotionally and visually intense; I'll give it that. However, I have never read the book, so when it comes to the subject of how well Tolstoy's book was put on the screen, I have to defer to Elena Rasner who, above all the writers whose thoughts I read, should be the best informed. I will bet she noticed, as I did immediately, that at the scene of Nikolai Levin's death, the priest gave the blessing in Latin. Latin?! A Russian Orthodox priest? "In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen" is *not* "V Imya Otsya i Syna i Svyatoho Dukha Amin" (Ukrainian) let alone Russian or Church Slavonic.

But the wedding scene was almost right, from what I could tell (my experience of Orthodox weddings is limited to one, but it was recent and made a great impression on me). Thanks for listening.

Bob Wirth
Minneapolis, MN

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I was raised and educated in Russia, so I can genuinely state that the ExxonMobil production of Anna Karenina is a complete failure and falsification, beginning with the choice of the leading actors. Anna has the looks of a peasant girl, and count Vronsky of a high school dropout. According to Tolstoy, the action is supposed to take place in high society. All the rest is just a costume party. I believe a better understanding could have been found.

Viola Brudno
Arlington, VA

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