What is it with those Russkies? Being a Brit and therefore fixated on weather because usually no three days are ever alike and when you really need rain you get a heatwave and when you are desperate to top up the tan after the eye-wateringly expensive hols in Majorca you can guarantee non-stop stair-rods to wash it all away, and thus, the weather is the only topic of conversation in the British Isles. The Russkies, on the other hand, have weather you can depend on; it will freeze your arse off for six months and then fry it for the next six months. This leaves them with very little to talk about - except love, or, having just watched the insufferable Anna Karenina, 'lurve' is perhaps more apt!
First, let me say that I really admired the way the film was staged - and I use that word deliberately. It is set, for the most part, inside an old theatre which changes effortlessly (apparently!) from ballroom to race course to swank restaurants and so on. All of that was totally brilliant but the problem lay with our bloody, and bloody-minded, eponymous heroine played by Keira Knightley. Within 20 minutes I had decided that all she needed was a good slap and I was prepared to volunteer. Part-way through the film I kept being reminded of some long-lost female character whom she resembled - and then it came to me - Scarlett O'Hara! But the difference was that whilst she was an equally tiresome pain in the bum, she also had guts and fighting spirit which is why I loved her. Mrs. Karenina, on the other hand, was either spitting blood and nails at the men in her life or bursting into tears. Needless to say, one soon lost patience with the men in her life, too!
There was a sort of sub-plot featuring some Russian, aristo hippie-type, a bit like that old Lord of Bath, or whoever he was, with the beard and the harem of hippie birds. This Russian one was, I assume, a sort of surrogate Tolstoy figure with his insistence on freeing his serfs and scything by hand what looked like 3,000 acres of corn alongside his men! Quite where he fitted into the scheme of things I never did find out. To be fair, my friends and I had helped a bottle or three of fairly decent Valpolicella on their way and as lunchtime drinking does not suit me I might have dozed off and missed a bit.
This was the first time that I had seen Kiera Knightley, or, 'IKEA' Knightley as one rude critic calls her. I was not struck! It's not her fault but the poor (multi-millionairess) girl has a mouthful of strong, large teeth which have a tendency to burst out from behind her somewhat thin lips which gives her a distinctly carniverous look - rather nerve-wracking, actually, especially on a wide screen. However, one must be grateful for small mercies. I have never felt an overwhelming urge to read Tolstoy, not least because from the little I know of his life he sounds a total prat! Now that I have seen this film, written no doubt lovingly by Tom Stoppard, I know now that I never will read any of his books. The other consideration, of course, is that I probably wouldn't live long enough to finish any of them!