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Sergei Bondarchuk's "War and Peace"
February 1, 2012 6:31 PM   Subscribe

An ever increasing accumulation of film stills from Sergei Bondarchuk's 8-hour long epic film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace

... the Russian version of "War and Peace" is a magnificently unique film. Money isn't everything, but you can't make an epic without it. And "War and Peace" is the definitive epic of all time. It is hard to imagine that circumstances will ever again combine to make a more spectacular, expensive, and -- yes -- splendid movie. - Roger Ebert
posted by Trurl (20 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like how the stills convey the scope of the film, the broadness of the landscapes and the hordes of actors involved. It's been a few years since my last viewing. Thanks.
posted by dragonplayer at 7:08 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd heard it was the most ambitious and best version, but somehow it never really dawned on me that it was really that long (our Russian lit professor said we didn't have time to watch it in class - well, duh.) It's almost 1 hour per 150 pages. Pretty darned thorough filmmaking - imagine a Harry Potter film (covering all seven books) lasting more than 30 hours (for the record, the films as released total something like 20 hours.)

Admittedly W&P is somewhat more dense than Harry Potter. On the other hand, you get to skip the last hundred pages altogether when making it into a movie, so...

I can't help but think of bread stores without any bread in them when looking at that $700 million figure. Yes, I know the difference between 1965 and 1982.
posted by SMPA at 7:14 PM on February 1, 2012


I can't help but think of bread stores without any bread in them when looking at that $700 million figure.

In 1965, the year of the film's release, the KGB was confiscating Solzhenitsyn's research materials for The Gulag Archipelgo.
posted by Trurl at 7:17 PM on February 1, 2012


If I'm going to watch a multi-hour film, I'd rather it be this.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:11 PM on February 1, 2012



Admittedly W&P is somewhat more dense than Harry Potter.


and it's better
posted by philip-random at 8:30 PM on February 1, 2012


I've been waiting years for Netflix to make this available. Does anyone have a lead on how to rent/purchase/stream the original version in the U.S.?
posted by stargell at 8:42 PM on February 1, 2012


Well, you could buy a subtitled DVD set here, but it's rather expensive.
posted by Nomyte at 8:55 PM on February 1, 2012


stargell: "Does anyone have a lead on how to rent/purchase/stream the original version in the U.S.?"

I just called Vulcan Video after a search on their website showed that they do own the film. And it's in stock, at the South location, 3 DVDs, subtitled of course (Vulcan doesn't play around with dubbed movies if they can help it.)

So if you've a good video store in your town, you might get lucky and find they have it. Also, who knows, is it poss that your local library might have it?
posted by dancestoblue at 9:13 PM on February 1, 2012


Well, with an obscure film like this (at least with no distributor in some places) that's probably a good reason to go to the torrents: 1, 2, though reading the comments the subtitle files are finicky about what media player they run in, and in one case a correction of the subtitle files may be needed.
posted by crapmatic at 9:20 PM on February 1, 2012


I watched it over a several day period once. It's certainly big - imagine if the Lord Of the Rings trilogy had been made with live actors instead of CG for the battles and you'll get an idea of the scope. It has its moments, but I remember parts being rather tedious - though I doubt the relatively small display I watched it on did it justice.
posted by Wemmick at 9:41 PM on February 1, 2012


Also, who knows, is it poss that your local library might have it?

worldcat has some 300 listings in multiple video formats.
posted by dhartung at 10:20 PM on February 1, 2012


I've been wanting to watch this for a good while, now. I don't know why I didn't think to look for a torrent.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:03 AM on February 2, 2012


I'll have to watch this sometime. I'm pleased that the casting for Pierre Bezukhov matches the image in my head.
posted by Harald74 at 12:24 AM on February 2, 2012


Found a copy of this on worldcat that, in the notes, mentions it was originally 507 minutes, but the version available is 403. Anyone know the why of the missing footage? Seems like an unusually large amount to cut, even for English speaking audiences. (Ha)
posted by zinful at 3:36 AM on February 2, 2012


The 700 million dollar question is why are all the villains (Helene, Boris, Dolohov) the only blonde actors in the movie? It has to be deliberate. It sticks out like the Boris and Natasha accents in Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.
posted by bukvich at 7:19 AM on February 2, 2012


> I'd heard it was the most ambitious and best version

Certainly the most ambitious and probably the best (though I haven't seen the competition); it's not a great movie, but it's a great adaptation, and scenes from it have stuck in my head ever since I first saw it when it came out. Fortunately, I taped it when it was on PBS years ago, so I was able to watch it again when I was reading the novel a couple of years back. It ain't Tolstoy, but it's magnificent.

> I'm pleased that the casting for Pierre Bezukhov matches the image in my head.

He's played by Bondarchuk, who directed the movie, and it's a great performance. But then Bondarchuk was a superb actor (a better actor than director); he's incredible as Andrei Sokholov, the truck driver who undergoes a hellish WWII experience in Destiny of a Man (which he also directed), and as Korostelyov, the stepfather in the magical 1960 movie Seryozha, one of the most moving and convincing depictions of the world of a young child I've ever seen (right up there with Kiarostami's Where Is the Friend's House).

I also highly recommend Prokofiev's opera, which I was lucky enough to see at the Met with Gergiev conducting. More artistically successful than the movie, but of course you have to like opera.
posted by languagehat at 7:22 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Oops, make that Sokolov. That'll teach me to copy-and-paste from Wikipedia.)
posted by languagehat at 7:23 AM on February 2, 2012


I saw the recent rerelease of the film a few years ago here in Chicago -- it was pretty astonishing. Unfortunately, that release had to be made with the best surviving 35mm prints, rather than the original 70mm negative, due to a nationalistic tussle between Russia and the Ukraine regarding which gets to "claim" Bondarchuk as a native son (he was born in a place that became part of the Ukraine post Soviet dissolution). The negative was held in a Ukrainian archive, and -- due to this conflict -- Mosfilm hadn't been allowed access to it for their restoration efforts. The version I saw was a little patchy, with occasional long sequences where the damage to the color is pretty noticeable. (more about this situation via a thread at criterionforum.org)

There are some surviving 70mm prints, though, which come out every once in a while. One ran at the AFI Theatre back in 2004. A recent thread from rec.arts.movies.tech about the film (via either Google Groups or usenetmessages.com) is pretty interesting, including a catalogue of known 70mm prints of it, along with the news that Mosfilm finally has the original negative (after a lengthy legal battle, apparently). According to the thread, it's in good condition, but there's no funding for a 8K digital scan, and no longer any lab facilities that could strike a good print from it (color would apparently be off to due to the different color processes used by the negative and modern film stocks -- some interesting geeky details about that in the thread too!).
posted by orthicon halo at 7:58 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I saw it on TV way back when (mid-70s?). I'm guessing it was on PBS. For me, a youngish teen at the time, it was mostly dull (too much talk) but the battle scenes (Borodino in particular) were amazing.

As for the rest of it, I have no particular memory, except at some point a young kid of the nobility (my age at the time) goes into battle with great dreams of glory.

SPOILER ALERT

He gets killed.
posted by philip-random at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2012


philip-random he is the baby of the Rostov family almost the most minor character in the book. If I recall right he is 16 and that's his first battle and almost the only thing he does in the whole book is get killed.
posted by bukvich at 1:48 PM on February 2, 2012


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