If you’ve seen Netflix’s new series Inventing Anna, you probably have one question in mind.
Not “who is Anna Sorokin” or “how did she get away with this” or “what is grand larceny” (well, maybe that last one actually) but rather… does she actually sound like that? Is Julia Garner getting the voice right, or is this whole thing just kind of a joke?
The real Sorokin (who went by Anna Delvey while scamming New York’s social elite) was born in Russia, just a little outside Moscow. At the age of 16 she moved to Germany, and in adulthood moved between London, Paris, Berlin, and New York – her real accent is influenced by each place she’s lived, and her voice has different geographical inflections to it. She’d also modify her pitch and tone with each new social group she inveigled her way into, as anyone does, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that Delvey might have a slightly unusual accent or indeed a particularly unique voice.
Julia Garner, however, is doing an exaggerated pantomime of a voice. In NationalWorld’s review, we said “probably the politest way of putting it is just to say that the actor really commits to the German-by-way-of-Russian drawl that Sorokin is known for, and you do eventually get used to the cartoonish affect.”
“It’s not bad, exactly, but it’s big and broad in a way that doesn’t quite suit the show – though equally, Inventing Anna would be better off if the rest of the series changed to suit the voice rather than vice versa.”
Early buzz for the series – emphasis on “early”, i.e. before people had seen it – focused on Garner’s performance in particular, drawing attention to her physical and vocal transformation for the role. Garner practised Sorokin’s accent extensively, watching hours of interview footage and even visiting Sorokin in prison to speak with her in person.
Speaking about playing Sorokin, Garner said it was “the hardest accent” she’s ever had to learn, and recounted the strangeness of performing the accent to the real Sorokin when she went to visit her in prison.
When you compare their voices – which is easily done, given how many interviews Sorokin has done – it’s clear how much more subdued the real con artist’s accent actually is. Sorokin’s voice lacks any the deliberately heightened inauthenticity of Garner’s performance, which is what you’d expect really: one is a big budget Netflix series, the other is a real person’s actual speaking voice.
Still, though, it really is a strange voice to listen to.
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