Incorporated into contemporary culture through high-, middle-, and lowbrow manifestations, Tolstoi's Anna Karenina repeatedly demonstrates its ubiquity. The novel's reincarnations in various cultural forms consistently privilege the Anna-Vronskii story line over the parallel narrative of Kitty and Levin, thus "liberating" the adultery myth from its novelistic shackles. This remarkable diffusion and myth-oriented interpretation of Anna Karenina largely stems from the cinema's fascination with the novel. The freedom with which filmmakers handle the allegedly well-known novel reveals the discrepancy between the literary text and its idea in the collective unconscious. This freedom also indicates that in popular awareness visual embodiments of Anna Karenina have become more authoritative than the novel itself. While shedding light on dramatic changes that have occurred in the "collective" idea of Tolstoi's novel, cinema—as a medium aiming at a mass audience—also manifests its essential connection with a myth of love that is stronger than death. The filmmakers' constant maneuvering between myth and novel defies the latter as an unequivocal source of adaptation and thus justifies the approach I advocate in my dissertation: namely, bypassing the rigid binary opposition "the literary source versus its screen version." Interpreted as vehicles for recycling an old story of adulterous love, films of Anna Karenina reveal two overarching tendencies in their attempts to transpose the nineteenth-century text to the screen—tendencies they share independently of their production date, country of production, and film format. The first strengthens the underlying myth of adultery by stripping the literary text of everything "irrelevant" to the mythical skeleton. The second disguises that skeleton by reproducing the accompanying subplots from the literary source. Yet even versions deeply rooted in the literary source are influenced by a myth-oriented perspective. Though my principal emphasis falls on screen adaptations, I also analyze the novel's recasting as a comic book. Unlike screen adaptations, this postmodernist revision of the novel was undertaken with the hope of undermining the novel's elevated status as well as the fame of its creator, thus signaling a successful completion of its long journey into the mass unconscious.
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