The Global Reach of ANNA KARENINA
Olivia Williams stars as Countess Vronsky and Keira Knightley stars as Anna in director Joe Wright’s bold, theatrical new vision of the epic story of love, Anna Karenina, a Focus Features release.
While much of ANNA KARENINA is contained by the architecture of an old theater, there are select and significant scenes played in exterior locations, geographical locales that prove as meaningful as anything constructed on stage. As the filmmakers traveled from the frozen Russian farmland to local English estates to find natural scenes that fit.
Filming locations for Anna Karenina in the U.K. included several well beyond Shepperton Studios.
The National Trust property Ham House, a 17th-century house situated in Richmond-upon-Thames alongside the river, became the setting for Vronsky’s apartment scenes.
Exteriors for Karenin’s rented summer house took place on the impressive grounds of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, which dates from the Jacobean period; the manicured maze which Anna and her son Serozha play within is on-site.
The residence of Nikolai, Levin’s brother, which is put forth on-screen as the top part of the theatre, was actually filmed in the attic of the historic Miller’s House at 3 Mills Studios in East London.
The Moscow train station scenes were filmed at Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire, where production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer had earlier worked with Jude Law on Sherlock Holmes just three years prior; the original Great Western Railway Engine Shed was built in 1932, and it was this building that their department took over for a number of weeks, building the smaller replica of the theatre stage alongside the platform as well as hiring authentic steam trains for Keira Knightley and Olivia Williams to have their characters’ tête-a- tête in. Supervising location manager Adam Richards notes, “Didcot has a very industrial feel to it, with a fantastic and gritty engine shed.”
Exterior filming at Didcot on autumn evenings was done with layers of artificial snow and ice on and around the train and tracks, which had to be applied over a week prior to shooting; Didcot is accessible via train, freight container, and foot – and not by vehicle. The special effects department made use of everything from paper to paint to paraffin wax to create the wintry environment. Once filming at the site began, airborne foam flakes were sent billowing through the night by three wind machines to set a scene of near-blizzard conditions swirling around Anna when she briefly disembarks from the train at Bologoye for some fresh air and Vronsky appears apparition-like, from within a dense cloud of steam and fog.
Oblonsky and Levin’s snipe-shooting scene in Pokrovskoe was filmed in the New Forest in Hampshire.
Salisbury Plain, which lies within the southern England counties of Wiltshire and Hampshire, is a chalk plateau spanning some 300 miles. Salisbury is known for its history and archaeology which dates from the Stone Age, most notably the prehistoric monument Stonehenge. Salisbury provided an idyllic countryside locale for Anna and Vronsky’s woodland picnic. The crops-ready land also stood in for the Russian countryside, with Levin’s haymaking scenes at Kashin filmed across the first few days of principal photography, which happened to be a few unseasonably hot days in September.
After principal photography had wrapped, a smaller unit travelled to Russia in February 2012 for a few days to film exterior scenes of Levin’s house and region; this filming took place on Kizhi Pogost, a remote island near Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia, Russia. While settlements and churches were on the island as early as the 15th century, it was in the 18th century that two churches and a bell tower were built, and Kizhi is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is an open-air museum with over 80 historical wooden structures, including buildings which were moved to the island in the 1950s for preservation purposes.
The final sojourn in Kizhi offered by far the most adventurous travel itinerary of the entire shoot; cast and crew took a flight from the U.K. to St. Petersburg, followed by an overnight train trip and then a six-hour drive to the formidable Lake Onega. Frigid temperatures ensured that filming took place in short bursts due to the risks to equipment and skin alike. Cast and crew braved the elements to stay overnight on the island, heeding the warnings not to walk alone outside after dark due to the presence of hungry wolves.
Richards remarks, “It was all part of keeping the location work real, but at that point we were preferring the excitement of being in the theatre.”