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Keira's career-defining new role

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There are definite similarities between Joe Wright’s long-awaited interpretation of Anna Karenina – Tolstoy’s epic meditation on the aspects of love – and his previous films Pride And Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007). Mainly because they all star Keira Knightley wearing a corset and being terribly posh.

But from early footage seen exclusively by Stylist, it seems that 27-year-old Keira’s portrayal of one of the greatest heroines in literature will be the most arresting performance of her career so far.

The director has taken an experimental, expressionistic, approach to the project, saying his eureka moment came while reading Orlando Figes’ study of Russian cultural history, Natasha’s Dance, which suggested the aristocracy of late 19th century Russia lived as if they were on a stage.

He ambitiously decided to shoot the majority of the film on and around a single location, a rundown theatre built from scratch at Shepperton Studios outside London, with remarkable visual results.

Full-sized trains run through the set one moment, then the ‘stage’ converts into an ice rink the next. The film has a dream-like quality that only intensifies the romance and tragedy of the classic tale.

Bafta-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran, who has worked with Wright before, created a sumptuous look in which 1870s style meets fitted Fifties couture – and the impact is spectacular.

And, by basing his version on the powerful screenplay by Tom Stoppard, which gives equal weight to Anna’s love affair with Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) and the romance between Levin (played by rising star Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty (Alicia Vikander), Wright has given the film more balance than the melodrama of previous cinematic versions, expertly showcasing the talents of the star-studded cast: Jude Law as Alexei Karenin as well as Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Olivia Williams, Michelle Dockery and Emily Watson. The only downside is that we have to wait until September to see it.

Anna Karenina is released at cinemas nationwide 7 September

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