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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

‘Karenina’ Praised in West, but Stymied in Russia

For MTAnna Karenina (Tatyana Drubich) sitting with her husband (Oleg Yankovsky) in Sergei Solovyov’s “Anna Karenina.”

One of the country’s most famous directors has filmed a Leo Tolstoy classic, but more than a year after the premiere of Sergei Solovyov’s much-praised “Anna Karenina,” the movie has not gone on release in Russia.

Solovyov had long wanted to film “Anna Karenina,” a subject that has fascinated film directors for almost a century. He had to overcome financial problems and more than a decade of trials to complete the film. Tatyana Drubich has the title role, with legendary actor Oleg Yankovsky in his last film playing the cuckolded husband and Yaroslav Boiko as Count Vronsky, Karenina’s lover.

“Everywhere in Russia and in the West where I showed ‘Anna Karenina,’ the feedback was great!” Solovyov said in a telephone interview. “Every time I show it, people sit on stairs, lie on the stage … Tribeca, one of the biggest New York cinemas, was chock-full, and this was on Friday night!”

But even though there are deals in the offing for the film to be shown all over the West, local distributors have been reluctant to take on a film that, they say, will not appeal to the young Russians who make up the majority of the cinema-going audience.

“They all think ‘Karenina’s’ audience is rather narrow and specific and the typical sort of moviegoers up to age 25 … are not interested in such a movie,” said the film’s producer, Oleg Urushev. Distributors told him that “Karenina is not a rating-boosting character. That’s the problem,” he said.

“They say Tolstoy is not a rating-boosting character, and this is very stupid,” Solovyov said.

Distributor Nashe Kino refused to comment on the film when contacted.

“It’s hard for Russian distributors to deal with ‘Anna Karenina’ because nobody here knows who Anna Karenina was,” Solovyov said in an interview last year.

Critics and moviegoers in the West certainly know who she was: When the film was shown in New York in November, The Epoch Times wrote: “Most prior adaptations of ‘Karenina’ have been formal costume dramas, very conscious of their status as prestige pictures. While the sets and costumes are appropriately elegant, Solovyov’s approach is much more impressionistic, employing saturated colors and deliberately cinematic lighting effects.”

The film Solovyov made after “Karenina,” “Odnoklassniki,” or “Classmates,” a more modern tale of the loves and lives of three young people, has already gone on release.

And ironically, a film about the author of “Anna Karenina” filmed by an American director with British and American actors in the main roles is more likely to get distribution.

Michael Hoffman’s “The Last Station,” starring Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as his wife, is rumored for release this fall in time for the 100th anniversary of Tolstoy’s death. The movie, which deals with the last days of the author’s life, has been highly praised in the West, and both Plummer and Mirren were nominated for Academy Awards.

“Michael Hoffman made a movie about a Russian genius for the whole world,” said Andrei Konchalovsky, one of “The Last Station’s” producers. “Of course, people may claim it would be better in Russian, and there are some inaccuracies. But whatever they say, the world is going to learn more about a man with a beard who was a great writer.”

Meanwhile, Solovyov is continuing to lobby for the release of his film.

“I understand that these kinds of movies can’t be distributed on their own, it requires a lot of directors’ input and energy,” he said, adding that previously he was preoccupied with making “Odnoklassniki.” “Now that it has been released, I can take care of ‘Anna Karenina’s’ distribution.”