The film, which is set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, follows aristocrat Anna Karenina, who enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.
NYGossipGirl chatted with Knightley during a roundtable interview about the demanding role, what it was like working with director Joe Wright again and her upcoming projects.
Can you talk about playing this complex character, because I think she’s one of the most complex ones you’ve played.
Knightley: She is. I think it was weird because I initially read the book when I was sort of in my late-teens, early-20s and my memory of it was as Anna being somebody who was sort of a victim and in the right and almost saintly and everybody else being wrong. And then all of a sudden, I read it again last summer, just before we did the film. All this is not what I remember at all and this is not the same person that I remember at all. I saw her as much darker and questioned the function of the role within the whole piece. I think because it’s called Anna Karenina you expect her to be the heroine. You expect her to be the one that you should always sympathize with and you should be seeing through her eyes. I don’t know that that’s the function of the character within the piece. I think the one to be idolized is Levin, and if you like, the goody is Levin. Anna definitely walks the line of being the anti-heroine, not always. She is also the heroine. I thought if you’re having the Levin/Kitty storyline within the piece, which is the romance, which is the idealized kind of hope, then what’s the point of doing the same thing with Anna. So, I thought it would be more interesting if we looked at that kind of darker, more morally ambiguous kind of side to her.
Is that why you think it still resonates to this day?
Knightley: I think it resonates to this day because it’s about love and not just romance or just that happy bit, not love in the way it’s all sold to us but love as the thing that we’ve been fascinated and obsessed by for centuries. Love is that thing that we are all after and yet can destroy us and is painful and can be madness and can be joy and can be happiness. It looks at the whole thing. I think that’s why it’s so complex. It has more questions within it than it has answers because we never manage to answer the questions. Love is something that is so inexplicable and so complex and strange. I think it’s a novel that looks at all of that. I think that’s why you keep going back to it. That’s why within preparing for this, when we were talking about it, every single person, whether they were a member of the crew or the cast could go, oh yes, I relate to that because everybody had a story within their lives that was applicable to the situations. It didn’t matter that we lived in 2011 or 2012 or in 1873 that it was written because it’s about that emotion.
Check out the rest of the interview after the jump! (more…)
Edited: November 21st, 2012