Fashion review: Anna Karenina film (2012 – starring Keira Knightley) costumes exhibition
26 January to 4 April 2013
Long Gallery, Ham House, Ham Street, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7RS
Ham House – map
Overall rating: *** (out of 5)
Setting of exhibition: ***** (out of 5)
Costumes themselves: **** (out of 5) – very beautiful. (Tip off: one of Anna’s/Keira’s silk and Tafetta fairytale princess-type dresses is on display too!)
How costumes are displayed & information about event/each item on display: **1/2 (out of 5)
Review by: Alexa Williamson
A mixed bag, but overall the exhibition is enticingly historic, unique and beautiful! So, here we have about 10 of the costumes from the film Anna Karenina (2012), which starred British actors Keira Knightley (Anna Karenin- and also interesting to note that Keira once lived in Teddington, which is a few miles from Ham House), Jude Law (Alexis Karenin) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Count Vronsky) as the main characters from this book by Russian author Leo Tolstoy. The story is about Russian upper and middle class people who have a little bit of money and dignity to begin with, but then lose it all as the story progresses. Anna also goes mad as she is torn between her strict and emotionless husband and the gutless playboy Count Vronsky. This is a painful story of Anna losing everything, but because of the period, if you like 19th century ball and opera gowns, and jackets and chap trousers and military uniforms for men, then you will love the costumes in the film.
Jacqueline Durran is a clever and wonderful costume designer. She is not that well known unless you work in the (British and Hollywood) film industry and know her work through her films. She won an award for the costumes in the film Vera Drake (2004 – written and directed by Mike Leigh), but this is not a film that instantly comes to mind. It was a success right when it was released but is not that often recounted in general daily conversation.
Durran does quite a few vintage films and the costumes from Anna Karenina are a lot of fun. With Knightley’s dresses on display as well as a few others, including also a corset and the heavy suits worn by the men, you get a sense of how she thought about things when preparing the ‘wearables’ for the film – and also how tiny cast was. From the mannequins, Knightley and Taylor-Johnson both looked to be about 5′ 4″. The costumes are highly detailed and made from beautiful fabrics. They are cut fairly sharply, particularly for the women and are lovely affairs, which one would picture being worn at London’s Royal Opera House during Queen Victoria’s time. They are also, generally on a par with Gone with the Wind (1939), but have been slightly less elaborate than say Funny Girl (1968) starring Barbra Streisand. (Yes, it is a different era, but it was still a period piece with a very girly feel – like this film).
Besides being surrounded by the beautiful costumes when you visit this exhibition, Ham House is a perfect place to host the exhibition. Ironically, scenes from the film were also shot here so not only does it seem like an enchanting, regal and historic place for them to be seen, they are linked to the house through the filming here.
This exhibition is fun and complements the long gallery, which they are seen in, very well. After reading and absorbing the great historical information at both the National Portrait Gallery’s Man Ray exhibition (7 February to 27 May 2013) and also the Hollywood Costume exhibition (20 October 2012 to 13 January 2013) at the Victoria and Albert Museum, I wish the information here had been more like both of those as they were concise but also very informative. The information that goes with the show here is short but doesn’t actually say that much. Anna Karenina costumes ends one day after this is written, but if you do get a chance or if they ever invent time machines, then it is worth visiting!
Anna Karenina the film (2012) (IMDB)
Anna Karenina film 2012 – review (The London Reviewer)
Leo Tolstoy author of Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina the novel (Wikipedia)
Ham House (National Trust – official site)
Ham House (Wikipedia)