War and Peace
Action / Drama / History / Romance / War
War and Peace
Action / Drama / History / Romance / War
By 1812, Napoleon's (Herbert Lom's) forces controlled much of Europe. Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, prepares to face Napoleon's troops together with Austria. Amongst the Russian soldiers, are Count Nikolai Rostov (Jeremy Brett) and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (Mel Ferrer). Count Pierre Bezukhov (Henry Fonda), a friend of Andrei's, and self-styled intellectual, who is not interested in fighting. Pierre's life changes when his father dies, leaving him a vast inheritance. He is attracted to Natasha Rostov (Audrey Hepburn), Nikolai's sister, but she is too young, so he gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, manipulative Princess Helene (Anita Ekberg). The marriage ends when Pierre discovers his wife's true nature. Andrei is captured and later released by the French, and returns home only to watch his wife die in childbirth. A few months later, Pierre and Andrei meet again. Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, but his father will only permit the marriage if ...
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March 07, 2016 at 10:20 PM
Film has a split personality
The first thing you have to do with a film that lasts 208 minutes is to decide if you are willing to commit to spending that much time watching the film. I hesitated, particularly during the first half hour, but I am glad I stuck with it, because I have never had the desire to read the historical novel, but thought that watching a film of the novel might be worthwhile. I do have to say that my impression is that perhaps this novel is too "big" to be translated successfully into film.
The biggest problem for me with this film is that I think Henry Fonda was totally wrong for the character of Pierre. And I say that as a person who usually respects Fonda's film roles. But this one didn't work for me at all.
Another problem with the film is that some of the actors were not American speakers, and clearly the mouths don't move properly with the words. Obviously there was some dubbing here, and I always find that distracting.
There are a number of performances I did enjoy watching. Audrey Hepburn was great as Audrey Hepburn. But it worked. Mel Ferrer does nicely here, although as I watched the film it occurred to me how few films with him I have seen. Oskar Homolka's performance is interesting...not necessarily good, but interesting...and he looked the stereotype of a Russian general. I didn't realize one of the actors was John Mills, but once I did realize it, I found it interesting (not a big part).
I can't make up my mind about Herbert Lom as Napoleon Bonaparte. I do think he is an under-appreciated actor, but I don't know enough about Napoleon to decide if the portrayal is good.
In terms of the title of my review, in many places the film is rather lavish. In other places some scenes seem incredibly cheap. A few early battle scenes look cheap, but the main battle scenes are rather impressive. There's one scene where Fonda's character goes to the front at night, and it so cheap looking -- you see his and Ferrer's shadow on what was obviously a painting of trees.
Was it worth nearly 3 and a half hours? Well...yes...I guess so, but I would have no desire to watch it again.
old fashion epic
It's the start of the 19th century. Napoleon's forces are marching across Europe. Moscow remains well beyond his reach. Pierre Bezukhov (Henry Fonda) parties the nights away. He's the bastard son of a rich Count. He admires Napoleon and is disillusioned with the patriotic militaristic fervor. His estranged father dies leaving him a vast fortune as the new Count. His friend Nikolai Rostov eagerly goes off to war. Nikolai's young sister Natasha Rostova (Audrey Hepburn) is adoring. Pierre's best friend Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (Mel Ferrer) is sincere and respectful. He's in the army and taken prisoner at Austerlitz. Pierre marries gold digging cousin Helene Kuragina (Anita Ekberg). Andrei is released home only to have his wife die in childbirth. Pierre's marriage does not go much better.
It's a thick book to condense into three and a half hours. Hepburn is enchanting but a little old to play a teenager. Fonda doesn't strike me as the party boy but his star power is certainly capable of maintaining the leading screen presence. He may be a better fit as Andrei. Neither of which are big flaws. The major flaw remains the human drama from the book struggling to be more than the stilted highlights on the screen.
This international production tries its best to encompass the vast epic. There are certainly big battles and large campaigns. The climatic battle has a cast of thousands stretching from one side of the screen to the other. Most of the war epic is impressive. The human story needs a concentrated effort. The simplifications may not be enough to focus the movie. This has its flaws although it may fill one's needs for an old Hollywood epic with big shining stars.
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Good, but it has bad interpretations and lacks emotion.
Anyone who has read, as I read, the entire book "War and Peace", has a clear idea of the enormous work that must have done to make this film. Its probably one of the most complex war dramas ever written and the largest dramatic book I have ever read. It's not my bedside book, but it's certainly one of my favorites when it comes to Russian literature. Directed by King Vidor (who transformed this film into his greatest masterpiece), he has Audrey Hepburn (in the role of Natasha), Henry Fonda (as Pierre) and Mel Ferrer (as Prince Andrei).
The script is very faithful to the book and seeks to make a legitimate adaptation. However, its very slow, giving too much emphasis and spending too much time on certain scenes without need, and it lacks emotions and strength, being unable to thrill or grab our attention. Perhaps the complexity of the original material has caused so many difficulties for the writing team that they have not been able to handle it in the best way. As for the actors, I liked Audrey Hepburn, she knew how to give life and joy to her character, but I expected more from Mel Ferrer, he did not understand his character. I hated Henry Fonda... he had one of the most psychologically rich characters in the novel and simply was unable to deal with it. It was a clear casting error.
The film has excellent war scenes and portrays very well the armies but always without emotion or danger, in a very warm manner. The costumes and scenarios fill my expectations and have taken great attention with detail and realism, which is quite pleasant. Cinematography is quite pleasant, although it exaggerates in brightness sometimes. Nino Rota is responsible for the soundtrack and did a good job. Anyway, as this movie has the worst sound effects I've heard in movies, I will not criticize the soundtrack.