Directed by: Sergei Bondarchuk
Countries & Regions: Russian Federation
Length: 401 mins
Region: Region 0
Released: 16 September 2013
Cat No: DAN058UKDR
Screen ratio 1:1.66
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War and Peace (Bondarchuk, 1967)
Bondarchuk took nearly five years to make this eight hour epic adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel, writing the screenplay as well as starring... Read More
This must be one of the epics to end all epics. With a cast of thousands and probably the entire Russian Army. This three cassette blockbuster holds the attention to the bitter end. Stupendous sets and backgrounds, grand balls and palaces all add to the spectacle and authenticity. A must see for all movie buffs.
The scope and scale of this adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's 1869 novel is magnificent. It was estimated to have cost between $40-100 million, making it the most expensive film made anywhere in the world to the mid-1960s. Moreover, its 30 stars and 120,000 extras populated 158 separate scenes that were played out against 272 sets, whose paintings, furnishings and props had been borrowed from the USSR's finest museums to ensure the same authenticity that had gone into the making of the 6,000 military and 2,000 civilian costumes, and the 60 French and Russian cannon.
Yet, while it became one of the few domestic pictures of the Communist era to perform at the Soviet box office, it was coolly greeted by critics home and abroad as an exercise in cultural propaganda, whose value to the state rather than to cinema was confirmed by Bondarchuk's receipt of the Order of Lenin. Even after it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, the distributors had their misgivings and the picture - which had originally been screened in four two-hour episodes - was cut down to first 373 and then 170 minutes for its dubbed English-language version.
Thus this monumental epic, now appearing as it was always meant to in its original form, is long overdue some reappraisal.
Bondarchuk himself makes a solid Pierre and ballerina Ludmila Savelyeva is simply exquisite as Natasha. The burning of Moscow and the Battle of Borodino may be precision examples of movie logistics, but Bondarchuk's use of helicopter panoramas and dizzying subjective views transforms them into harrowing studies of raw courage and the hideous brutality of warfare.
Furthermore, Bondarchuk and co-scenarist Vassili Soloviev managed to capture the vibrant realism of Tolstoy's characters and the majesty of his 'thoughts, emotions, philosophy and ideas', while Bondarchuk's delicate handling of the human aspects of the drama and the accessible treatment of its complex politics easily surpassed King Vidor's laudable efforts in the 1956 Hollywood adaptation, starring Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn.