Anna Karenina (1935)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 30, 1935 (USA)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The 1935 adaptation of Anna Karenina is a must-see for lovers of great cinematic romance films, as well as for devotees of Greta Garbo, two groups which often overlap anyway. It's even a good version for Tolstoy purists to watch; granted, liberties are taken with the original story (some for "Hollywood" reasons, others simply having to do with bringing a lengthy, complex novel to the screen at a reasonable running time), but the spirit is intact. Director Clarence Brown does a lovely job, from the first breathtaking banquet sequence to the final unforgettable train station segment. He captures the passion and the fire of the characters, as well as the restrictive atmosphere of the society against which they are rebelling and which ultimately destroys them. Most importantly, he captures Garbo at the height of her mystical loveliness, giving new meaning to the word "luminous." Garbo is positively unearthly in Karenina, a creature simply not of this world. And her performance is exquisite, a perfectly realized portrait that is simple yet glorious. As her paramour, Fredric March is accomplished and ardent, and there is definitely a spark between him and Garbo. Even better than March is Basil Rathbone, whose cold hearted husband is an incisive examination of a master manipulator. The only weak note is sounded by Freddie Bartholomew, who overacts the part of the son from whom Anna is torn. Blessed with gorgeous photography, sets and costumes, Karenina is a stunner all around.