There’s a coldness to the new “Anna Karenina” that has nothing to do with the white stuff piled up along the streets of 19th-century St. Petersburg. It’s the chill that comes from a director entranced with his own talent. Joe Wright has made five feature films now, but only the first, 2005’s “Pride & Prejudice,” felt wholly unstudied and free. The new film staggers under such a weight of self-conscious visual style that the story never connects with a viewer’s emotions. Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel has been filmed often, but this is the first time it takes place in a snow globe.
It’s also the third Wright movie to star Keira Knightley, an actress who has rewarded him before (in “Pride” and 2007’s “Atonement”) and who does her damnedest to burst through the film’s plate-glass remove. It’s not her fault she doesn’t have the soul of Greta Garbo in the 1935 version of “Anna Karenina” (or an earlier silent adaptation, “Love”). Who does? Knightley’s Anna is a beautiful, shallow songbird, married to a stodgy bureaucrat (Jude Law behind priggish spectacles as Karenin) and flitting through the upper-class whirl of late Imperial Russia as though she owned it, which she does.