War & Peace (2007)

Friday, October 10, 2014

War & Peace

Thanks to a friend, I had the opportunity to see this before it was made available in the states and the discs got lost in the shuffle that is my overstuffed DVD shelf. With my recent renewed aspiration to organize, I found them and after transferring them upstairs to my small DVD collection there (where they again sat for a few weeks), I finally popped them into my laptop and prepared to be taken on quite a journey. Whether it was good or bad was about to be determined.

Young and happy, Natasha Rostova (Clémence Poésy) dreams of falling in love and on the night of her parents - Count Rostov (Andrea Giordana) and Countess Rostova (Hannelore Elsner), latest soiree, she does. The moment she sees Prince Andrej Bolkonsky (Alessio Boni), Natasha knows: he’s the one. Only her dream cannot be realized as he’s married and with exception to one chance encounter, Natasha has no contact with him and is instead kept occupied with society at her family’s town house which is split between time in the country – and her friendship with Pierre Bezukhov (Alexander Beyer), who is coincidently fast friends with Prince Andrej.

Following the death of his wife in childbirth, time passing begins to heal Andrej’s guilty heart, and he and Natasha become engaged only before they can marry, his father (Malcolm McDowell) asks they wait a year. Not long after his return from the battlefield, he sends Andrej off on a yearlong appointment in the Russian military; leaving his son in the care of his long-suffering sister Marja (Valentina Cervi), Andrej leaves behind all that represents his past and future.   

Pierre is not without his own complications. The once illegitimate son of a wealthy man, before his father’s death he made Pierre his sole heir which suddenly puts him in a powerful position among the aristocracy and he becomes the pawn of the beautiful Helene (Violante Placido), who marries him solely for the status. Then the Rostov family encounters financial woes and Natasha, despite her promise to Andrej catches the eye of a scoundrel military man – one whose nefarious plans are anything but honorable.  

War And Peace

I just have to say right up front before getting into my nitpick-y what-I-didn’t-like or did topics, I adored this miniseries. The beginning in particular is charming and I think the reason I had such a positive reaction early on was I expected something much more dreary and unpleasant because of its classic novel privileges. I don’t know how the book shakes out, though my idea of it wasn’t a good one and I do think I can safely say, I won’t ever read the tome this is based on. What can I say? I’m not that ambitious when it comes to my reading habits. This miniseries however is a much different story.  

Going in, I expected to have moments of happiness and be enthralled though to be honest being bored throughout the majority of the runtime was in the back of my mind. Broken into four 90-some minute parts (or that’s how I saw it), the first part is nothing if not delightful before the darker sorrows creep in leaving us with mere sprinkles of joy and then the final part is essentially all about the battlefield – both in what it takes from the characters, who it takes and how it changes them. I enjoyed the characters and within that, experiencing a “different” kind of family than the normal costume drama portrays – usually I am so used to the “stiff upper lip” in costume dramas, meeting a family who cares about their children’s happiness, throwing properness to the wind in their quest to enjoy life is lovely. While watching this that was something that constantly surprised me – the lack of being “proper” (women being in a man’s room to bid them good-bye or unpolished appearances). Whether this was merely the vision filmmakers wanted and isn’t accurate or because I’m most used to England-set costume drams, I don’t know. Either way, this creates warm and quirky scenes that are inviting and easy to love.  

All of this is behind the beautiful characters that are at the forefront – there are some who grow up throughout the series, which is a pleasant transformation then there are those that do something we never expected of them. There aren’t always the best explanations as to the who’s who or wise choices always made (I wanted to shake Natasha in particular – silly girl!) and sadly some of the characters don’t make it to the credit’s end – and gosh darn it, guys I got attached to some said people. *sniff*

That being said, the ending is happy in a bittersweet kind of way, and is almost more Austen-esque in its setting and narration. And I probably should explain myself here. What I mean by bittersweet is that the ending is set up from the beginning and so narrowly focused on one way to conclude that when that no longer is possible, it kind of shattered my idea of a happy ending. Looking back, all ends as it was “meant to be,” but just not the same. The production is lavish and beautiful (can we say, gorgeous ballroom scene!?), though there are times when it’s easily apparent a green screen or the like is employed. Technical details also reveal this was filmed in Russian before being dubbed in English. Sometimes this is no issue and I doubted this wasn’t filmed in English to begin with, other times it is more obvious though never to the point of distraction. 

When all is said and done, this version was, for lack of a better word beautiful. I enjoyed every moment and though the final part did get a little war and political heavy (in comparison), it was still an enchanting way to view and end the series, and offers the chance for redemption and the freedom of forgiveness many characters needed. With news of a new BBC adaptation of this in production, I am now most curious to see what would come of that, because as an adaptation, I am a fan of something I never expected to be. Bravo War and Peace. 

(Content: there are numerous battle scenes that see men shot, stabbed or blown up by canons [nothing terribly graphic]. We see men die after they are brought to medical tents. A women cheats on her husband and later is seen in bed with a man [he is half dressed, she underneath the covers]; a woman later dies from a disease as a result of her affair. There is a brief scene of nudity in the opening credits. There is some other crude sexual remarks – an unmarried woman falls pregnant and a married man attempts to seduce a young girl, and then leave her. Keep in mind, with all of the editions [regions 1, 2, etc.] of this on DVD, they all may contain different content. This would be a solid PG13.)


  1. "Austen-esque?" Oh yes! I loved reading every word of this review. I am such a fan of BBC mini-series and will definitely be checking out this one. I can't believe I haven't heard of it until now! Thanks so much for sharing--I can't wait to tell my sisters about this one. :)

    1. The ending is VERY Austen-like, Bekah. It's staging and the voiceover (mainly it reminds me of the style in the Gwyneth Paltrow version). Hope you like this if/when you check it out - there are some things I didn't love (naturally), but overall, I adored it. :)

  2. This one has been on my 'should-really-watch-someday' list for years. But I keep postponing because of the reputation of Russian classics as depressing. But your review sounds really positive and I know you're not a fan of dreary and depressing tv either.

    1. It's really good, Birdie - since it is dubbed in English sometimes the sync up is a little off, but it was much better (production wise) than I expected. I don't blame you being leery because of the depressing nature - the last part in particular is a bit sad, but good news - it ends well! :)

      ...and yes! You know my miniseries tastes well; I'm not a fan of depressing TV at all. :)

  3. Well! You made me much more interested in this than I had every previously been, so well done. :) Not sure if I'll get the chance to watch it, but if I do, I know I'll snatch it up and plan to be whisked away. (At least I hope so. ;) It's nice to know it's not completely depressing because that's exactly how I've always imagined it to be. Shows what I know.

    1. This one greatly surprised me, Kara though I do believe it's safe to say I'll NEVER read this book. It wound up being really sweet despite the fact that episode three was quite "war heavy." Beyond that, I thought it was a worthwhile watch. Most of all, I'm eager to see what comes of the upcoming adaptation since it'll be filmed in English and the cast was looking good. If you see this, I hope you enjoy it. :)


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