Written for Slavic 90A: Introduction to Russian Civilization – Spring 2013. Read more of my previous notes on “War and Peace” here.
Film Title & Year: War and Peace (2003)
Director: Sergei Bondarchuk
Length: 403 minutes, divided into three disks (phew!)
Summary: “A painstakingly detailed adaptation of the Tolstoy novel which follows the interconnected lives of a group of Russian aristocrats from 1805-1812, including Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.” – via Worldcat.
Note: This epically long film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1968.
Transforming the colossal work of “War and Peace” into a four segmented movie was surely a tedious task. By sacrificing some of the whimsical and humorous scenes in “War and Peace”, including Dolokhov’s drunk hooliganry with a bear and policeman, Nikolai’s misfortunate gambling experience and the Rostovs’ enjoyful hunt, director Sergei Bondarchuk instead focuses more on a character-driven plot through Andrei, Natasha and Pierre.
The exclusion of the some frivolous “War and Peace” scenes translates well time-wise into an otherwise already lengthy film. As a benefit, the movie provides visual context to a foreign audience. It provides details that might have been easily missed by a person without background knowledge on early 19th century Imperial Russia. The selection of dress and setting seemed very authentic to period portrayed, showing that Bondarchuk paid careful attention to keep true to Tolstoy’s 1800s.
In addition, the film features internal monologue, so that viewers can directly hear the thoughts of War and Peace’s characters. It was an exceptionably nice technique, which was absent in Tolstoy’s original writing. Overall, the movie seems to remain faithful to the novel.
Works Cited: Bondarchuk, Sergeĭ, Lyudmila Savelyeva, Vyacheslav Tikhonov, and Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace. West Long Branck, N.J: Kultur, 2003. Film.