War and Peace

1956

Action / Drama / History / Romance / War

7
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 33%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 63%
IMDb Rating 6.8 10 7578

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Audrey Hepburn as Natasha Rostova
Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov
Anita Ekberg as Helene Kuragina
Mel Ferrer as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.45 GB
1280*714
English
PG
23.976 fps
3hr 28 min
P/S 5 / 13
3.12 GB
1920*1072
English
PG
23.976 fps
3hr 28 min
P/S 6 / 7

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Martin Bradley 8 / 10

Vidor's unjustly over-looked version of Tolstoy's novel

Perhaps the best you can say for Vidor's long, (200 minutes), but surprisingly compact version of Tolstoy's novel is that it is no disgrace despite being 'internationalized' for mass consumption. (It's got an Italian producer, was filmed in Italy, an American director and a large cast from all over the place, leading in some cases to some very unconvincing dubbing). But it's also largely intelligent, well enough acted, particularly by Audrey Hepburn who is an enchanting Natasha, and visually splendid. No less than eight writers worked on the script which fails conspicuously to translate Tolstoy's 'grand ideas' into anything other than Readers-Digest form but then even Bondarchuk's even longer Russian version didn't quite manage the leap from page to screen. You may be forgiven, then, for thinking you are watching nothing more than a grandiose soap-opera even if it's a cut above run-of-the-mill historical 'soap-operas'. But in an age when three-hour-plus epics were ten-a-penny it didn't catch on and come Oscar time it was largely over-looked. (The even bigger but vastly inferior "Around the World in 80 Days" took Best Picture while "War and Peace" failed to snag a nomination in that category). But it is worth seeing if only for Hepburn's under-rated performance and for Henry Fonda, too old and miscast as Pierre, but bringing his liberal gravitas to the part, all the same.

Reviewed by Righty-Sock ([email protected]) 8 / 10

Ambitious, thoughtful, and massive in scale...

Although often naive, even crude, the films of King Vidor were frequently distinguished by their sheer energy and forceful visual style... As his career progressed, his films became increasingly grand in terms of narrative scope and visual bravura...

Tolstoy and Vidor tell the epic story through a handful of major characters...

As Napoleon Bonaparte prepares to invade Russia, Pierre Bezukhov (Henry Fonda), an aristocrat so liberal in his views, visits his friend Count Rostov (Barry Jones) and his radiant, young daughter Natasha (Audrey Hepburn). They all witness 'those handsome Russian men marching away to fight, to be killed.'

When his father dies, Pierre falls under the spell of the attractive Helene (Anita Ekberg) and finds himself unable to resist her passionate response... He marries her even though everybody knows that she's fooling around on him with Dolokhov (Helmut Dantine).

His closest friend, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (Mel Ferrer), achieves success as a soldier under General Kutuzov (Oscar Homolka) but returns wounded, a condition made the worse by the death of his wife in childbirth...

With his own marriage ended by the adultery of his woman, Pierre introduces the grieving Andrei to Natasha, and the pair fall in love... But before they can marry, Andrei goes to fight the invading French and the pacifistic Pierre goes along as an observer…

The motion picture deals with war and its effect on people... It contains many marvelous pictorial moments as the colorfully uniformed regiments marching through the excellent streets of Moscow; snowy landscapes; a magnificent Ballroom sequence; and most of all, Napoleon's forces at the epic battle of Borodino; the march on Moscow and the tragic retreat of Napoleon's army through the Russian winter...

Most of the military side of the story takes place in the second half, and it seems slow to arrive, but the battle of Borodino is fairly well handled... It is focused (through Pierre's eyes) with long shots of the invading and retreating French troops...

Audrey Hepburn whose boyish figure provided a refreshing antidote to the film, is lovely as Natasha... Her flaming innocence and blossoming sensuality set her sweet heart ablaze... This charming spirit, with so much enthusiasm and romanticism, is full of life and true love... Hepburn matures from an impulsive, kind-hearted teen-ager, to an understanding woman who uses her courage and impetuousness to love, to care, and to serve...

Henry Fonda is pure, brave, and noble... He projects with sincerity the confusion of an honest man caught up in an angry twist of history... He witnesses the horrific events of war, experiencing days of misery as a prisoner of war... His remarkable adventures lead him to understand at least part of the mysteries of life, humanity, love and loyalty... Pierre is strikingly different from others, with a deep love and esteem for his country and his sweetheart...

Mel Ferrer is the sensitive prince who doesn't come around until he meets the sweet Natasha... Andrei is intelligent but arrogant... He ignores the feelings of his wife and fails to carry out his responsibility as a husband...

Vittorio Gassman is the legendary seducer, darkly handsome, sensuous, magnetic, who lives in a world of debauchery... Anatole is a man dangerous to love, impossible to resist...

Herbert Lom is the 'greatest man of Europe' who sees his men walking hardly under fatiguing conditions through the snowy fields of Russia... Napoleon had a tough decision to make...

Oskar Homolka is General Kutuzov who forms a reasoned judgment against an enemy who has a larger, more efficient force... It is unclear whether he did this out of weakness or whether it was part of a brilliant strategy with the purpose of drawing Napoleon's army way beyond their means of supply for the winter, which Bonaparte had not prepared for...

Anita Ekberg is Helene, the charming and reckless libertine who goes to a world of cheats and insults her husband's ego making his life depressed and miserable...

Helmut Dantine is Dolokhov, the officer, challenged for a duel, who puts on view the better side of his character much later...

Tulio Carminati is Prince Vasili Kuragine, a man of the world who familiarizes himself with people who are influential and tries to obtain favor from them...

Barry Jones is Count Rostov, a loving family man and an excellent friend... He is indulgent towards his family and provides them comforts and luxuries of life...

Wilfrid Lawson is Prince Bolkonsky, a despot aristocrat who imposes his authority on his son without caring for his feelings..

May Britt is Sonya, the tender young girl who is devoted to the Rostov family and loves Nicholas...

John Mills is Platon, the cheerful Russian peasant whose philosophies comfort Pierre...

Vidor's 'War and Peace' is massive in scale, faithful to the larger historical events... Its heart is really with the romantic side and so it's most successful as a period melodrama...

Reviewed by blue-7 10 / 10

WAR AND PEACE On DVD At Last!

King Vidor's version of Leo Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE has finally been released in the U.S. by Paramount and is a welcome addition to my DVD collection. I have been tempted many times to purchase a Hong Kong pressing of this title -- but I'm glad that I refrained. While this DVD does not contain much in the way of "Extras", it does contain a nice wide screen transfer that captures to look of its original release. Paramount, rather then following in the footsteps of the other major studios, did not use the CinemaScope wide-screen process developed by 20th Century-Fox and introduced in 1953 with their Lloyd C. Douglas adaptation of THE ROBE. Rather, Paramount developed their own wide- screen process and called it VistaVision. The VistaVision system moved 35mm film through the camera side-ways, resulting in a picture negative that was close to 70mm in size. The film was then reduced to a wide-screen image (usally around 1.85:1 instead of CinemaScope's 2.65:1 ratio). Coupled with genuine Technicolor (before it became teamed with Eastman Color) photography, VistaVision was capable of stunning images. WAR AND PEACE was photographed by JACK CARDIFF, one of finest cinematographers ever to grace film (THE RED SHOES is one of his works), resulting in one of the most beautifully photographed films of all-time! Alas, stereophonic sound was not generally employed by Paramount and so WAR AND PEACE has only a mono track -- nice, but not as nice a stereophonic track would have been. As to the film itself, I can only express that I have loved it from the first seeing in 1956 -- and continue to find it a great and involving film experience. The film is truly spectactular (even when compared to the 6-hour Russian version of 1968), but it works for me because of the human story. AUDREY HEPBURN as Natasha is perfection itself. She grows from the delightful innocence of childhood to the wisdom (and beauty) of adulthood. HENRY FONDA, often criticized as being wrong for the role of Pierre, is very effective as a man searching for and finding the true meaning of life and events. The film ends with this marvelous quotation from Tolstoy: "The most difficult thing -- but an essential one -- is to love Life, to love it even while one suffers, because Life is all, Life is God, and to love Life means to love God". And that is what this film captures -- and this is what sets it apart from other great epics. Nino Rota's score is also a great asset to this films effectiveness. As to the DVD itself -- Paramount, while not restoring it in the manner done for their recent releases of ROMAN HOLIDAY and SUNSET BOULEVARD, have still provided us with a fine DVD! There is no commentary track (most of the principals have passed away) -- but it would have been nice to have heard from Jack Cardiff. Both the B&W Behind-the-Scenes Trailer (showing location shooting of a key charge scene and a few words from director, King Vidor) and the re-release theatrical trailer, are interesting. How does the film compare to the book? I'm currently reading the book -- and can honestly say that I'm glad that I've seen the movie first. It helps greatly in keeping track of the numerous characters and plot developments. The book is one of the enduring masterpieces of literature -- but this film stands on its own as a great motion picture! Thanks Paramount for the DVD release!!

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