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|Index||52 reviews in total|
If you can find it, watch it.
Admittedly, the 7 hour plus running time is pretty daunting, but consider the source material. This film deservedly won the best foreign picture Oscar when it was finally released in the U.S. The fact that a Soviet film was able to garner such an award during the height of the Cold War is a testament to its greatness.
There are 3 intermissions to this, the Pangaea of all epic films, and each section draws the viewer in more than the last. The spectacle will blow your mind in a way that digital effects never will be able to do. To actually see the Red Army (and what looks like all of it) marching in costume over the expanse of miles into the distance will change any prior notions of spectacle you held. Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, whatever awed you before is chicken feed compared to the brutal grandeur of Bondarchuk's recreation of The War of 1812.
There are beautiful interludes of excellent acting amidst extremely costly sets--it's a shame I don't know Russian because those subtitles chew up a lot of exquisite scenery. The characters are fully developed, the direction is inspired (no run-of-the-mill static camera work in any of this).
They showed this in 70mm at The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood last year. Before that it was 10 years without a screening in the U.S. We can't afford to let this shimmering prize of film history lapse. In a theatre, or if it is ever issued on DVD, this movie will deeply reward all those who watch it. There was nothing as grand as War & Peace before; there will be nothing on its scale ever again. Treasure this masterpiece...if you can find it.
I remember seeing this film without a break back in the 1970s in Greenwich
Village. It's a grand work of art. The movie started around 9pm and ended
5:00 am. It was snowing outside. I felt we had all lived through the War
with Napoleon, seeing Natasha grow (the movie took so long to make that
young actress visibly grew before our eyes), and confronting the issues of
war and peace.
It was in Russian with English subtitles. That was better than the TV version some years later that was overdubbed. The feeling of the actors didn't come through in that broadcast.
The music was extraordinary. There was a certain waltz that intrigued me. Saw the other War and Peace with Audrey Hepburn that just could not compare to it. It was too lame.
Nothing in film today can compare to those battle scenes. Nowadays, such scenes are too computerized.
The best film ever made, ESPECIALLY when taking into account all the
logistics - the Soviet Government as a film studio?? (sort of makes sense,
after you picture Leonid Brezhnev as Louis B. Mayer), and the world's most
infamous LONG novel turned into a megamotion picture.
It probably hasn't been seen in the US on a broad scale since ABC had the good sense to run it as a four part late-night special in early 1973 (anyone else remember)?
Not even subtitles - for those of us who are not true foreign film buffs, I mean - can hurt this film. Bondarchuk's amazing direction, as well as his acting, is breathtaking. The Russian people have been celebrated as lovers of great writing and the subject at hand, "War and Peace", becomes a poem at the conclusion.
Truly magnificent from every level - as a period piece, a psychological drama, a war movie, a love story, a history...Tolstoy would be universally acclaimed ahead of Shakespeare if he (Tolstoy) had the good sense to be from England...
Don't miss it. How the Soviet Government, at the height of the Cold War, could finance and produce a masterpiece like this is one of the great mysteries of the 20th century. Give Bondarchuk the credit.
War and Peace, to many, is synonymous with a colossus of a book. The
ultimate door-stopper. It is among the most complex and epic works of
literature ever written. In 19th century Moscow and St-Petersburg,
youths grow, make their mistakes
hearts are bound and then broken
then the great war against Napoleon tears all these lives apart. Leo
Tolstoy created intimate portrayals, compelling characters and epic
action, telling the story of an entire country and an entire era
effortlessly and elegantly. So if books are often difficult to adapt,
this one should be completely impossible (witness the shallow King
This film is the stuff of legends. Reportedly one of the most expensive productions ever created, Sergei Bondarchuk's "War and Peace" benefited from the Red Army's involvement and the Soviet Government's financing, and clocks in at about 7 hours. It is as faithful to its source as could be imaginable. In fact, it almost transcends its source.
Admirably cast (the angelic Liudmila Savelieva is ideal as Natasha Rostova and the director was unbelievably wise in casting himself as Pierre Besukhov), elegantly transcribed into a witty screenplay and enacted with class and conviction by its immense cast, "War and Peace" is not just a good adaptation. Its merits as a film are colossal. The cinematography defies any other film, particularly during the battle scenes: rejecting the painterly staticism of Barry Lyndon and the simple charging and distant shots of older films, the violence in Sergei Bondarchuk's epic mirrors that of Kingdom of Heaven (2005!!!), as the camera flies over a never-ending battlefield at full speed, glides aver frantic canons and divisions, crashes into mêlées and follows haunting stampedes of riderless horsemen (a potent metaphor for how the great leaders of the time lost all control over the conflict's proportions). All this without a pixel of CGI in sight (and all the better for it as it presents shots that the eye would simply refuse to believe if generated by a computer) The epic battle of before the sack of Moscow is so colossal and devastating, that even Napoleon looks confused at how to feel before the ocean of corpses sprawled before him. This is the greatest display of cinematic warfare ever committed to the screen. That the calmer scenes manage to sustain that level of excellence is a testament to how grandiose an effort this film is. The display of repressed emotions and overt tenderness are heart-breaking and many episodic scenes stand out magnificently, such as the wolf hunt, the opening balls (easily rivaling anything in "Il Gattopardo") and the duel. This is a film to which the fantastic "Dr Zhivago" feels like a small appetizer Bondarchuk's "War and Peace" reaches beyond the book and in doing so successfully is one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. It is cinematic poetry and entertainment of the highest order. And to sum things up in an overused but never more appropriate than here they'll never make'em like this again.
When you see the movie that adapts your favorite work of literature you have high expectations. You have a picture of the scenes, locations and characters in your mind, and hardly ever a movie comes close to those images. Likewise, I found the 1954 movie War and Peace very disappointing. I was prepared for a similar experience before I saw the two-part movie by Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk. And was surprised. Still, the seven hours' version still omits many facets (including the almost satirical epilogue) of the original 1600 pages work of Leo Tolstoy. But never before lived a movie up to the images of my mind like this one. The actors, the locations, must have been picked very carefully, because they are very close to how they are depicted in the book. In more than one instance I had the feeling that my imagination had been brought to the screen. But it isn't the faithful rendition of the material alone that makes this movie so unique and wonderful. The broad scope of emotions, the grand scale of the aristocracy's parties with all their luxury, the battles with tens of thousands of extras, the impressive burning of Moscow, the actors who don't act but live the plot, it all adds to the wonderful experience of this film. This movie is highly recommended to any true lover of Tolstoy's book, who is interested in Napoleonic history or simply anyone who likes deep, moving, impressive movies. For anyone interested in Napoleonic history, I also highly recommend Bondarchuk's Waterloo, from 1969/70.
If at all possible try to see the film with the original language soundtrack and subtitles. The sound of the original Russian dialogue complements the stunning visual sweep of the film in a wonderfully satisfying way. The dubbed version on the other hand degrades the whole experience horribly.
Do not watch the US video release, it's a disgrace; a bit like cutting off a bird's wings and forcing it to bark like a dog. The original is breathless in scope and profoundly moving - it is in four parts and runs close to seven hours, and there are good reasons for its length as any can guess who have read the book. If only someone had the conviction and decency to prevent this kind of mangling. I wonder how Tolstoy would have felt if they had told him 'War and Peace', the 'US version', would only be published as cliffnotes.
Ever since I've heard about this movie, I always wanted to see it. It
was not until recently that I acquired a great Russian DVD copy with
multiple subtitles. A restoration of the complete 7 1/2 hour long,
widescreen version thought to be lost for a long time. It took me a
whole week after work to see it all (4 DVDs + 1 of extras) and during
the weekend I had to see it again, this time with company who also
enjoyed it until the end.
I'm certainly not a movie critic or pretend to be so I'm not going to dissect and criticize this movie. It is just the urge to express my joy when I confirmed again that the cinema is undoubtedly a new form of art from the 20th century. It is a media that can display (audio visually) all the forms of art. Theater, music, paint and in this particular case, literature. I must confess that I never read the whole "war and peace" book, just a digest in high school. I calculate that it would take me at least a month of daily reading during a whole vacation with nothing else to do but to read the whole book. And in 5 years I m sure I'll remember the movie better than the book, just like many other movies made after the book. For instance; when I think of "A street car named desire" I immediately think of Brando yelling "STELLA", reading the Tennesee Williams play couldn't make me feel what the picture did, but the picture made me feel what Williams wanted me to feel. Many times the movie differs from the book and fails to deliver the message or feeling that the author pretends, usually because of the "natural handicap" that movies have which is the short time (usually 2 hours) to complete a whole novel. The best example to probe this should be the other "war and peace" from 1956. There is just no comparison. And since I'm not a critic I give this a 10.
If possible, this is a film to be seen before reading the book!
Count Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace he was at the height of his mental
powers. Tolstoy's in-depth understanding of the Russian
is transmitted ably by the director of the film, Sergei
Bondarchuk's stress on authenticity as manifested in clever cinematography
is perhaps unequaled in modern film making.
One has the feeling to be involved in the battle scenes and also the more intimate drawing room sequences.
The foundations of War and Peace are largely to be found in Tolstoy's keen interest in history.
Bondarchuk said, "We have tried to involve the spectator in the events on the screen to make him experience what Tolstoy's characters experienced and the atmosphere in which they lived." This has been done admirably.
Bondarchuk brings Tolstoy's enormous literary work to the screen with all the scope and pomposity that the Soviet film industry could muster in the sixties. It's a long, two-part movie that tries to give moviegoers as much of an experience as readers often get from the novel. It's generally successful in a clinical way. The production design and set pieces are delivered on a massive scale, with battle scenes that are basically re-enactments of history. There's enough creative casting to make most of the characters come alive, although much of the drama is wooden and stagey (just as in the book, I might add). All in all, this is probably the biggest visual spectacle ever put on film, even in the age of CGI (a fact which only makes the viewer more appreciative of the logistics involved in setting up a production as big as this). A colossal epic that gives true meaning to the term "years in the making with a cast of thousands!". Image/Rusico is presenting a definitive DVD version in the Sovscope widescreen ratio with the original 70mm six-track magoptical sound on four discs. That's around 7 hours of subtitles for those inclined to see this spectacle in it's purest form.
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