Anna Karenina (2005)

Movie: Directed by Joe Wright.

Inciting Event: While visiting her brother and his wife in Moscow, Anna first encounters the young Count Vronsky at the train station. They are instantly attracted to each other, but Anna rejects the emotion, knowing she can’t get involved, since she is a married woman.

As in most love stories, the Inciting Event is the meeting between the lovers. As is also usually the case, there is initial reluctance or obstacles that prevent them from immediately pursuing their mutual attraction.

First Plot Point: At a ball, Anna goes against her better judgment and agrees to dance with Vronsky—even though she knows her young friend Princess Kitty is expecting a proposal from him. Anna abandons herself to her attraction to him, and they scandalously dance together all evening.

Even though Anna still remains a faithful wife at this point, the dance symbolizes her departure from her Normal World of comparative complacency and acceptance of her lot in life. From here, she will spend the First Half of the Second Act grappling in reaction to her impossible but increasingly reckless infatuation with Vronsky.

First Pinch Point: Anna half-heartedly attempts to reject Vronsky, but when he demands to know whether she will send him away, she cannot. Instead, she commits adultery with him. Her husband Karenin, without knowing how far she has gone, warns her she is starting down a road to damnation.

In many ways, it is Anna’s consummation of her relationship with Vronsky that permanently exiles her from her Normal World. However, it could not have been placed at the First Plot Point (in the movie anyway; the timing in the much larger book may be different) without making the evolution of her decisions seem rushed.

As it is, it works perfectly as a turning point at the First Pinch Point, since the true antagonistic force in the story is the adulterous relationship. By entering fully into it at this point, Anna is truly “pinched” by the foreshadowing of consequences to come.

Midpoint: After Vronsky is nearly killed in a horse race, an overwrought Anna reveals to Karenin, in a Moment of Truth, that she is Vronsky’s mistress. Now, she is no longer simply reactive within the relationship and the plot. She is starting to take action—however destructively.

Second Pinch Point: After learning Anna is pregnant with Vronsky’s child and considers Vronsky her “husband now,” Karenin burns with hatred for her and vows to divorce her, which will disgrace her, prevent her from legally remarrying, and cast her unborn child into blatant illegitimacy.

Third Plot Point: After a “false victory,” in which a gravely ill Anna convinces Karenin to forgive her and Vronsky, she recovers and discovers she cannot bear to live under the weight of that forgiveness. She runs away with Vronsky.

On its surface, this seems to be a positive outcome for her. She has gotten what she wanted. However, to do so, she has had to permanently reject the Truth and embrace the Lie. As such, her success can only be a harbinger of eventual destruction.

Climax: Desperate to be welcomed back into society, Anna attends the theater. Despite Vronsky’s attempts to intercede on her behalf, she is snubbed at every turn. From here on, her descent into paranoia, desperation, and addiction is swift and intense.

Climactic Moment: Anna throws herself under a train and dies.

Resolution: The lives of the survivors are shown, including Karenin raising Anna and Vronsky’s daughter.

Notes: An argument could be made for either a Fall or Corruption Arc for Anna, but I’m going to go with a Corruption Arc, since Anna demonstrates in the First Act that she understands a crucial thematic Truth when she speaks to her sister-in-law of the power of love and forgiveness. Then, over the course of the story, she loses sight of that Truth and surrenders to a Lie that eventually rejects both Karenin’s and Vronsky’s love, as well as Karenin’s (initially) authentic and selfless forgiveness.

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