War and Peace
Distributed by: Continental Distributing
Released: March 1966 to November 1967 (in four parts)
About a year and a half ago, I first considered reading Tolstoy’s 1869 mammoth 1,200 page novel War and Peace. I was warned by a literature-major friend of mine to stay away, that the juice was not worth the squeeze, as it were. Well, nobody tells the purveyor of My BFF Project what he can't do; I considered the gauntlet summarily thrown down. Off to the library I went, full of vim and vigor, checked out the book and got started. And twenty-six renewals later, I'm hoping to finish that monstrosity sometime during the current calendar year.
|Sergei Bondarchuk as Pierre|
To summarize a seven-hour film in a review seems pointless, but be assured, there is war and there is peace. Then there is war again, then peace, then war, then finally (spoiler!), peace. I will say this: This is one grand epic of a film, and it takes its time. But Bondarchuk’s pacing may be what I liked about it most. Fairly faithful to Tolstoy, there is humor and sadness and
absurdity and romance, and all these exist in all the main
characters. Pierre, a somewhat comical
figure, becomes a very, very rich man early on in the story, through no fault
of his own, and much of what follows is about his struggle to understand what
he is supposed to do with that wealth. Andrei, a proud and increasingly nihilistic man,
tries to find his life’s purpose, with the help of Pierre, Natasha, and of course,
the war against Napoleon. And Natasha, maybe the story’s most important figure, grows from a spirited life-loving
girl to a serious and selfless woman. I
especially felt the director’s frequent use of the interior monologue was
effective, as we got to understand what each character was thinking and
feeling, at times better than the characters did themselves.
|1956 Hollywood version|
No expense was spared in making this movie, what the Guinness Book of Records has called “the most expensive film ever made.” The photography is amazing and the scope of this movie is epic. But I never felt like there was much unnecessary to the story, and the plots flow well. When I came to the end of the 7 hours and 19 minutes, I said to myself, “Gosh, that didn’t feel like more than 7 hours and 10 minutes, tops.”
The title: Война и мир, or to make it easier on you, Voyna i mir.
|2016 BBC/A&E version|
Agenda danger: The fact that the Soviet Union not only green-lighted, but commissioned this film is perplexing. There is no real hint of anti-capitalism or Communist propaganda. Even the Soviet Union’s other Best Foreign Films, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears and Dersu Uzula, present some oblique critiques of capitalist thinking; War and Peace sticks to the spirit of the novel, which really doesn’t contain a hint of Communistic thought.
Best Picture that year: Oliver! That's the title; it's not as though I am extra-enthusiastic to name this one. Because I'm not.
The book takes longer.