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Oscar Watch: Sex and Death in 'Anna Karenina' Costumes (VIDEO)

Features
by Anne Thompson & Sophia Savage
November 19, 2012 1:19 PM
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Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina"

After its fest circuit rounds and limited openings last weekend, "Anna Karenina" screened Sunday at the Academy, yielding yet another set of divisive reactions. Wilshire Boulevard's Kate Mantilini Restaurant was packed with members hanging out between "Karenina" and "Life of Pi." Joe Wright's artfully stylized take on Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" has passionate defenders and detractors. (The NYT's A.O. Scott gives it a rave.) But whatever happens on Oscar nominations morning, the film's costume designer Jacqueline Durran will likely be recognized withher third nomination, after Wright's "Pride & Prejudice" and "Atonement."

In our interview with "Anna Karenina" director Joe Wright, he describes what he and Durran were after with Keira Knightley's costumes: "The dead birds, the diamonds that are cold, the dead animals around her neck.  There is a lot of sex and death in her costumes, that was basically the idea.  The costumes feel as if they might fall off her."

'Anna Kareninina'

Knightley in our video nterview below describes Durran as a character-based designer. Karenina "is an incredibly emotional creature...We were interested in the idea that she's trapped like a bird in a cage, surrounded by death: the fur, birds in her hair, cut diamonds, a blood red ruby, clothes in lingerie fabrics falling off...veils of a cage over her face."

The veils serve more than an aesthetic function, says Wright; "Just the idea of caging her, of hiding her more and more. A large element of Anna's character is about shame, so it seemed appropriate in terms of that emotion."

Durran tells People: "Period films are absolutely a challenge because you never have enough time,” but admits that despite the hard work, "it's a pleasure." Durran sums up Knightley's gowns as "1870s silhouette meets 1950s couture."

Wright admits that they played around with a styles that were not of the period at all:

"We looked at the period dresses.  Though I like the silhouettes, I didn't like the detailing.  So Jacqueline and I began to look at Dior dresses of the 1950s and realized they were similar in terms of the shape.  So we started developing a style of dress, and like the dance, it was totally unhistorically correct.  And that was the fun of it, we were creating a fantasy in the film as most period films should be fantasies because I'm not interested in historical reenactment because it's impossible."


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