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Depictions of Anna Karenina

depictions-of-anna-karenina

Actresses who have played Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina is widley considered one of the most romantic stories in literature. It was written in 1877 by Leo Tolstoy. It's an example of Realism fiction.

It tells the story of the beautiful Anna who is married with a child, falls into a passionate love affair with the dashing Count Vronsky. Her affair ultimately leads to her downfall and her suicide.

Anna's story runs parallel to the pure love story of Levin and Kitty. The contrast between the two highlights the thesis of the book, that happy families are all alike but unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. In Anna's case, she didn't even know she was unhappy till Vronsky.

Anna Karenina has been remade into numerous versions and this lens looks at the women who have depicted Anna in TV and movies.

Painting of an Unknown women used for Anna Karenina by t Ivan Kramskoi, 1883

Painting of an Unknown women used for Anna Karenina by t Ivan Kramskoi, 1883

A little about Madame Karenina

Anna Arkadyevna Karenina is described as very beautiful with her black hair that has curls in it and a shapely figure. She is very intelligent with a sharp wit and appreciation for the arts.

At the beginning of the book she is in a loveless marriage she is not unhappy. It’s after she falls in love with Count Vronsky that she relieves her unhappiness in her marriage.

She is a very complex character as she is very flawed. As she destroys herself through her passions and her paranoia that Vronsky is falling out of love with her you can’t help but to sympathize with her pain.

There is same indication that Anna has bipolar disorder.

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M. Sorochtina

This was the first film version os Anna Karenina. It’s a Russian movie and was directed by Maurice Andre Maitre. It starred M. Sorochtina as Anna.

Unfortunately this film is lost.

Mariya Germanova

Mariya Germanova

Mariya Germanova

Like the 1911 version, this version is also Russian. It was directed by Vladimir Gardin. It starred Mariya Germanova as Anna.

This film is also lost.

Betty Nansen

Betty Nansen

Betty Nansen

This is the first American version. It was directed by J. Gordan Edwards. It starred Danish actress Betty Nansen as Anna.

This film is also considered to be lost.

Greta Garbo as Anna in Love

Greta Garbo as Anna in Love

Greta Garbo

Entitled Love

Directed by Edmund Goulding this American version has to alternative endings.

The first alternative ending is in the European version which follows the novel. The American version is a happy ending where Anna and Vronsky are together.

This version starred Greta Garbo and was silent.

Besides the American happy ending the film takes liberties with story. But the film is a great example of the chemistry between Garbo and John Gilbert.

Greta Garbo as Anna Karenina

Greta Garbo as Anna Karenina

Greta Garbo

For the 1935 version, Greta Garbo reprised her role as Anna.

This version, directed by Clarence Brown, is famous and critically acclaimed. All around, the casting is great and Garbo is one of the few Anna that starts off vivacious and flirty before becoming a tragic broken figure.

Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina in a Promational Shot

Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina in a Promational Shot

Vivien Leigh

In the 1948 version, Anna is played Vivien Leigh. This version was directed by Julien Duvivier.

Leigh plays Anna as sophisticated and glamorous. Leigh is well cast as Anna but the rest of the cast falters.

Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif in Nahr al-hob

Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif in Nahr al-hob

Faten Hamama

Entitled Nahr al-hob (River of Love)

This film is an Egyptian version of Anna Karenina. It translates to River of Love. It stars Faten Hamama as Nawal, who is the Anna character.

The film isn't a period piece as it takes place in 60's Egypt. However it follows the novel pretty well and was hailed as one of the top Egyptian movies in 1996. It also stars Omar Sharif as the Vronsky character.

Claire Bloom as Anna Karenina

Claire Bloom as Anna Karenina

Claire Bloom

The 1961 version was a TV movie staring Claire Bloom as Anna and Sean Connery as Count Vronski.

Bloom is a visual expressive Anna with a haunting delicacy.

Tatyana Samojilova as Anna Karenina

Tatyana Samojilova as Anna Karenina

Tatyana Samojlova

For many people the 1967 version is the seminal adaptation.

It stars Tatyana Samojlova as Anna Karenina. It's a Soviet era film directed by Aleksandr Zarkhi.

Samojlova's Anna starts off with a great blend of playfulness and sophistication. She also has a great restraint when Anna is losing control over her life.

Samojlova's performance as Anna is a very strong and compelling

Anna Pagett as Anna Karenina

Anna Pagett as Anna Karenina

Nicola Pagett

The 1977 version is a ten-part BBC series. Anna is played by Nicola Pagett.

Pagett plays up the sophisticated glamorous women with a touch of playfulness but her portrayal of Anna's decline is unhinged and heartbreaking.

Jacqueline Bisset as Anna Karenina

Jacqueline Bisset as Anna Karenina

Jacqueline Bisset

The 1985 version of Anna Karenina was made for TV movie. It stared Jacqueline Bisset as Anna and Christopher Reeve as Vronsky.

This version is a condense version. Bisset's Anna is very heartfelt.

Sophie Marceau as Anna Karenina

Sophie Marceau as Anna Karenina

Sophie Marceau

The 1997 version was directed by Bernard Rose. It stars Sophie Marceau as Anna and Sean Bean as Vronsky.

Marceau plays Anna on the serious sophisticated side and not so much as flirty as she is the book.

Marceau conveys a lot of Anna’s turmoil with her facial expressions.

Helen McCrory as Anna Karenina

Helen McCrory as Anna Karenina

Helen McCrory

This version was a two part mini-series. It stars Helen McCrory as Anna.

This is a very solid version. McCrory brings a lot of grace to the role as Anna and plays the role very well.

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina

Keira Knightley

The 2012 version was directed by Joe Wright and is the most styled version of the story.

It opts to have a play and backstage motif to symbolize Russian society of the 1800s. Another aspects of the style is that the costumes are heavily influenced on mingling 1950’s couture with Victorian styles.

The over stylization that this Version employs in is a love it or hate it thing. It looks lovely and is very creatively interesting but can get in the way of narrative. It comes done to individual preference.

Anna is played by Keira Knightley which was a choice that met with a lot of contention among movie-goers. At the time, Knightley was the go-to actress for period pieces and she was a favorite of the director.

Knightley's depiction of Anna is very similar to her character in The Duchess, which is a similar character.

Vittoria Puccini as Anna Karenina

Vittoria Puccini as Anna Karenina

Vittoria Puccini

This version was a two part mini-series. It's stars Vittoria Puccini as Anna.

This version is very lavish and beautifully shot. Puccini plays Anna as a very charming woman and she gracefully communicates Anna's struggles.

Sarah  Snook as Anna Ivin in The Beautiful Lie

Sarah Snook as Anna Ivin in The Beautiful Lie

Sarah Snook

Entitled The Beautiful Lie

The 2015 version is Australian mini-series that reimagines the novel as being set in the modern day. It was six episodes in length.

Sarah Snook stars as Anna Ivin and she and her husband are sports stars. The Screenwriter made this decision to "heighten transgressiveness of a wife leaving her husband."

Snook excels in the role of the modernized Anna and gives a heart-wrenching performance.



Elizaveta Boyarskaya as Anna Karenina in Anna Karenina: Vronsky's Story

Elizaveta Boyarskaya as Anna Karenina in Anna Karenina: Vronsky's Story

Entitled Anna Karenina: Vronsky's Story


The 2017 version is a Russian drama directed by Karen Shakhnazarov. It was then exanded into an eight part version that aired on tv in Russia.


It stars Elizaveta Boyarskaya as Anna. Boyarskaya's depiction is less flirty but she communicates a high-spirited take on the character. Her Anna is more intense and obsessive and convey's Anna mental illness more than other versions of the character.

Anna Karenina Movie Poll

Tatyana Samojilova as Anna Karenina

Tatyana Samojilova as Anna Karenina

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