Though little known outside of Russia, Aleksander Zarkhi’s gorgeous 70mm widescreen 1967 film version of Anna Karenina is acknowledged as the most visually spectacular and faithful interpretation of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece. Never before available on US DVD, Kino International proudly presents this beautifully mounted adaptation of one of the greatest novels of Russian literature.
In pre-revolutionary Moscow, Anna (The Cranes Are Flying’s Cannes award-winning Tatiana Samoilova), a beautiful young aristocrat, languishes in a loveless marriage to Karenin, a powerful politician and highly visible public figure. When her brother Stiva invites scandal in an impetuous affair with his children’s governess, Anna sympathizes with Stiva’s faithful wife Dolly. But when Anna’s head is turned by the dashing Count Vronsky (Vasili Lanovoy), she finds herself risking her marriage, her family, and her husband’s career in pursuit of a romance as self-destructive as it is passionate. The suffocating hypocritical social order that imprisoned Anna in her marriage won’t permit her to leave it without paying a tragic price.
For Anna Karenina, the USSR’s famed Mosfilm Studios spared no expense to lavishly recreate the palatial trappings of upper crust 19th century Moscow. Working for more than two and a half years in close collaboration with cinematographer Leonid Kalashnikov (The Red Tent), and with an outstanding cast (including dancer/actress Maya Plisetskaya, the Bolshoi Ballet’s legendary “queen of the air”), director Zarkhi created a film that sympathetically marries epic scope to the humanity, intimacy and insight of Tolstoy’s novel.