Anna Karenina: A Movie Review

There is nothing like celebrating one’s 30th birthday, than with a Russian tragedy, er, love story. At least that’s what I convinced myself, and Boof, when he pressured to know how I wanted to spend today. I am usually terrible about thinking of celebratory things (especially things that don’t involve spending $100 on filet mignon at Daniel’s Broiler in Lake Union). But Anna Karenina is one of my favorite stories, a thick Russian love story/tragedy that occupied one good summer while I was lifeguarding and dreaming of someday being in love and married and possibly a mom.

I remember being confused at first, with a huge list of characters to memorize, and the Russian way of using nicknames and surnames that change, it was quite a challenge, and yet, I was drawn to the story, the woman: Anna. Tolstoy had this beautifully magic way of making her come alive on the page, and it was almost as if he was telling a story that was buried inside my soul, which shows his ability to not only relate to the greater human condition, but somehow understand a little about what goes on inside the hearts and minds of women. And the fact that I believed and knew and related so much to this beautifully awful complex woman made the ending that much more tragic.

But not so, in the movie.

The movie failed to capture the complexities of Anna, instead, the beautiful cinemetography and lack of substantial dialogue or even an omnipresent narrator given the task of explaining her innermost thoughts (they could have done with more actual quotes from the novel, I think), left the character of Anna more on par with that of Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attractions. She seemed mad with love, and yet it didn’t seem pure or good or anything explainable other than lusty desire and…madness, in the film. The character of Vronsky was also flat, and gave me, the viewer, little insight into what made him tick (besides his penis picking Anna) and failed to leave me with any reason why Anna would have picked him, even if it was with her ‘heart.’ If looks were the reason that brought them together, then character casting could have done a better job, at that. Because I knew the ending already, I was almost looking forward to her suicide, thinking, “when will Anna finally jump in front of the train,” which was a thought that caught me off guard since I so understood her in the book.

Because of my preconceived notions from the story, I was actually surprised that I felt a compassion and empathy with Anna’s husband, who appeared in the film as a man who had done nothing at all to deserve the roller coaster ride that she put him on. I wonder, is it age or wisdom or simply the movie-maker’s take on the story that has changed my experience of Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin.The setting, filmed as if this were a play, added confusion to the storyline and I felt like it was trying to hard, though the actual filming of the scenes were beautiful.

In the end, though, I am happy I saw the movie, even if it was only a pure escape for two hours. I so rarely get to sit in a theater and enjoy myself, so that was a real treat. And I am happy that I laid my fantasies about the story aside and got to see a different view of the same old tale of love and loss.

But I’ll leave you with a quote from the book:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts on the book or the movie or both?

Wild: A Review

My hips and thighs and ankles hurt. Not from hiking 1,100 miles, like Cheryl Strayed does in her memoir, Wild, but from lying still, in bed, for hours on one side, cuddled up to a smallish human being who aches for my nipple to soothe him into slumber. I often feel alone, and resonated deeply with Cheryl’s descriptions of the necessity to do her trip alone, while appreciating and loving the people she meets along the way. Very much an example of the hero’s journey, and while I’ve heard reviews that state it’s over the top, I felt she lived up to her “Queen of the PCT” title given her by her fellow travelers.

I was introduced to the author by women in the processing group I lead. One suggested we check out the advice column “Dear Sugar,” and that she had also written these things that were worth mentioning. My co-leader said she had Wild on her nightstand and was making her way through it. Fascinated with a story about the PCT, a trail that I once fantasized about hiking solo, too, I knew that I had to read her adventure, if for nothing else than to see, perhaps, a glimmer into what my life could have been like, if I had done a different solo trip than the one I actually did.

I think my three day solo adventure to Ohanapecosh, my childhood campground in the Mt. Rainier National Forest, actually prepared me for those 6 months in India. I wonder if the 6 months in India prepared me for the solo adventure of motherhood. And when I say solo, I don’t meant that I’m not mostly-happily partnered up, or that I don’t have a great network of supportive people around me to watch Potamus or go to coffee with, but because the journey to becoming and embodying motherhood is inside me, a trek I’ve only been on for a short-though-feels-like-fucking-ever time. I am on a trail, and I pass beautiful things, and hard things, and I feel like stopping and resting my feet and sleeping for 1,000 hours, but the drive to keep moving forward, the nudge from the foot in my side saying “feed me mama,” is still there. Like Cheryl, I have my own Monster…her pack, my baby. Love sometimes. Loathe others. Feels heavy and full and bears down on my hips making them ache from swaying to relieve the pressure, if only for a moment.

I am tired after reading this book. I feel like I have so many more miles to walk, through snow and rain and sunshine, and while it gives me hope, it shows me just how hard it actually is. She doesn’t sugar-coat the difficulty, from losing toes, and gaining callouses, to the intangible diffulties of overcoming fear and the cocky unprepared pride she had starting out her journey.

I would recommend it to so many of you. She will go on my shelf of spiritual and literary dashboard saints. Maybe I’ll wedge her between Donald Miller and Anne Lamott, or closer to Elizabeth Gilbert and Sherman Alexie. I feel inspired. I feel like I can hobble to bed and not feel guilty for memory foam or a down comforter, but know that my journey is hard and that is okay, because my journey is different, but that maybe I’m doing it for the same reasons or entirely different ones, and that is okay, too. Maybe, when I reach my destination, my own Bridge of the Gods, I will be healed, just like Cheryl.