The Looks of Love
Always one of the most visually engaged of directors, Joe Wright "remains the
director I've ever worked with," states Paul Webster. "The film is in his head.
Then he crafts it shot by
shot and scene by scene. Anna
Karenina was highly storyboarded, even more so than the other
movies we've done.
"He plots out every location - or, in this instance, set. Then, he shares all
this information with the
whole crew. Everything and everyone contributes to a greater understanding of
the story being told.
When things change during production, everyone is kept in the loop."
Jacqueline Durran remarks, "The image of every scene is already in Joe's
mind, so your job is to find
out what it is - and to try to fulfil his idea. He has pre-thought it all, but
looks forward to using what
you give him."
Karenina's 19th-century setting notwithstanding, Wright asked Durran to ensure
costumes be in the style of 1950s couture, though still with the silhouettes of
the 1870s. "Not having to
be strictly in the one time period was liberating," says Keira Knightley.
Anna's image was to be one of pure luxury, befitting her status as a Russian
aristocrat who wore
French clothes. Durran notes, "Had nothing else in the production been stylized,
we would have been
out on a limb. But I knew this would fit in to the visual-feast approach within
The costume designer's research included looking at French fashion plates
Balenciaga and Dior, and
period photographs; the other characters, with the exception of Princess Betsy,
would hew closer to
the story's time period. Durran comments, "I thought that Joe's idea was genius
because a lot of 1950s
couture was itself looking back to an earlier time. We looked at some images
from the time next to
fashion pictures from the 1870s and although they were eight decades apart, the
two periods meshed
together very well.
"We associate 1950s couture with chic elegance, and so this would be a
signifier to the audience and a
way in for them to the image Joe wants conveyed. With Anna, I did keep an 1870s
skirt shape all the
way through - while pushing the bodices in the direction of the 1950s. There is
also a 1950s feel to
several of the other costumes, such as Anna's gray silk jacket - it's very much
a 1950s jacket shape,
with buttons down the front, although even this is paired with an 1870s skirt.
As on Atonement, Durran worked closest with Sarah Greenwood and Ivana
themes and color palettes, and exchanging swatches and reference material. They
stayed on the same
track while each honed their respective contributions. "We discuss everything
Primorac. "It's like we belong to the same department, and I'm finishing what
they have started."
Durran elaborates, "Ivana and I will talk about hair and make-up in relation
to costume and
character. Sarah always has a sense of what the proportion of a given scene is
shaping up to be. Joe is
often at fittings at the beginning saying, 'I think this is the direction we
should go in.'"
The direction Wright wanted Primorac to go in was to enhance Anna's
sophisticated look with soft,
dark curls unlike any of the other female characters; she was also to have
make-up that would subtly
exemplify her innate beauty.
Having memorably costumed Knightley in an iconic green dress for Atonement
and in period garb in
Pride & Prejudice, Durran specifically discussed with the actress ways to
support the look Wright was
hoping to achieve. Durran comments, "Keira is ideal to dress, and so
collaborative; she had good
suggestions about adjusting things."
Primorac adds, "Keira has no vanity attached to herself at all; she doesn't
care what she looks like, she
just wants the character to look right."
Durran reports, "Anna's thematic scheme of color is dark, particularly with
the red she wears at the
beginning in the Karenin home. What she wears becomes somewhat lighter in tone
becomes enraptured with Vronsky, before returning to the darker hues as she
becomes anxious and
paranoid that his affections towards her have waned."
Among Anna's costume highlights is a sumptuous jet black taffeta ball gown
which captivates Count
Vronsky and all of society when she steals Kitty's thunder at the ball.
1950s-inspired bodices with
asymmetric fastenings, a swoop of taffeta around the neck, and a long tail
folded into the bustle to
extenuate the 1870s shape are evident in three of Anna's costumes: the cream
dress she wears at the
tea room, the dark red dress she wears at the film's climax, and the dark blue
dress she wears at the
races (the bodice of which is made out of denim).
At the ball, Knightley performed as Anna while adorned with sparkling
diamonds worth $2 million,
specially loaned to her by Chanel for the shoot.
The two men in Anna's love life have distinct styles reflecting their
respective positions within society
as well as their very different personalities. Count Vronsky's stylish uniforms
are influenced by
Russian uniforms of the period and are in shades of pale blue and pure white;
tandemed with his
blonde hair and blue eyes, he stands apart from the other men. Durran reports,
"We did pare the
uniforms down a bit so that they became the essence of a Russian tunic."
Karenin's costumes have their origins in tsarist uniforms of the late 19th
century. The designs were
simplified for his character, illustrating his power and status within society.
"Jude Law latched onto the idea of removing details rather than adding them. We
gave Karenin a
slight air of monasticism, playing on the idea at home with his dressing gown
Law offers, "I think that first trip into wardrobe, and hair and make-up, is
so rewarding because you
all have these ideas to define what the character will look like. Yet you might
not necessarily start to
see him until you make the final leaps."
Primorac notes, "When it was all put together, I think it was quite far from
Jude and very
recognizable as the Karenin that's described in the book. We had gone over
everything from the
character's fingernails to his neck.
"As for partly shaving the head to make Karenin balding, Jude responded to it
better than I did; I was
aware of how drastic it was going to be - lasting several months - but Jude was
completely up for it."
Searching for the authentic life more than the other characters, Levin is clad
in peasant-style clothing
for scything scenes in the countryside - and a more polished look for his brief
excursions into the
societal whirl. "For the peasant wear, there were some book references," says
Durran. "We did take
license and mix northern Russia with southern Russia, a slight hybrid that
stayed true to Levin."
"For the ladies, there were all these bustles," recalls Kelly Macdonald.
"When my character was
pregnant, I was gliding around like a snail. At least I didn't have to wear a
corset because when you
do it's, 'I won't be having quite so much at lunch.'"
Ruth Wilson muses, "These characters are being stretched and pulled, and the
outfits indicate that as
well! Jacqueline and Ivana and I discussed how Betsy was this submissive yet
With her look, she is being more dramatic than everyone else in the room."
Betsy stands out from the other female characters with elaborate hairstyles
and make-up engineered
by Primorac and her department, while Durran "was given a brief by Joe of,
'Let's investigate the idea
of geisha for Betsy.' So we converted 1870s shapes into Japanese ideas, and
there came again our
marvelous link to 1950s couture because Balenciaga was always playing with the
kimono neck. It was
like a continuous circle."
The female dancers who recur on-screen throughout the society scenes, at the
ball, and at Betsy's
soirĂ©e, were dressed in distinct pastel colors with a tainted tint symbolizing
the decay of the society
they are a part of. Durran explains, "These particular sour pastels are reused
scene after scene because
within the theatrical environment, they become like a chorus. Had we filmed this
stately homes, you might have thought, 'Why are those dresses out again? Too
lazy to go get some
more [, Durran]?'"
Primorac's department was tasked with conveying each and every individual's
place within society.
This was no mean feat, given that the production called for dozens of speaking
parts and hundreds of
extras. She notes, "You have to give the characters a background that shows the
viewer who they are
and where they come from. The worlds of the rich and the poor are portrayed in
this story, but you
have to provide character traits atop that, and there were different groupings
to tend to separately.
Joe wanted the different levels of society to be visually accessible, so that
everything from color palette to style of beards to buns on hair.
"Fortunately, the Russians embraced photography when that came in, so there
was a lot to draw
from; it was a very beautiful period to research. Some books were brought back
to us straight from
Russia. There were photographs of different levels of society."
Domhnall Gleeson recalls, "I'd see extras in extraordinary hair and make-up
by Ivana and her team -
and some of them would look wonderfully silly, because their characters were
trying to be 'men
The male dancers, as in a company during a theatrical performance, appear in
throughout the movie, sometimes in quick-change mode rivalling a stage show;
green jackets are
worn over their costumes when they are the clerks in Oblonsky's office, typing
unison, and they then swiftly don aprons to become waiters.
The servants, played by both male and female dancers, transition from scene
to scene silently as an
almost invisible presence, as their class was in society; they are costumed in
period Russian style and
in shades of dove gray, from torso to foot.
Durran feels that "the costumes combined particularly well with the
choreography to convey the
servant class as a whole fleet of people constantly looking after the Russian
"This shoot was a revelation. I'd have prepared a scene, then go onto the
theatre set and be amazed at
it unfolding as something beyond what I'd imagined."
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