If you know and love the novel, something about the movie just doesn’t feel right. The problem, I think, is that it’s too romantic. The film, as [director Joe] Wright promised, is all about love, but Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina isn’t a love story. If anything, Anna Karenina is a warning against the myth and cult of love.
Tolstoy, when he wrote the novel, was thinking about love in a different way: as a kind of fate, or curse, or judgment, and as a vector by which the universe distributes happiness and unhappiness, unfairly and apparently at random.
In Anna Karenina, love can be a curse as well as a blessing. It’s an elemental force in human affairs, like genius, or anger, or strength, or wealth. Sometimes it’s good, but sometimes it’s awful, cruel, even dangerous. It’s wonderful that Levin and Kitty fall in love with one another—but Anna would have been better off if she had never fallen in love with Vronsky.