A Russian Prince experiences battle against Napoleon and a troubled relationship with his father and wife. Finds acceptance of her death and eventually his chance of true love. A spoiled, ... See full summary »
By 1812, Napoleon's forces controlled much of Europe. Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, prepares to face Napoleon's troops together with Austria. Among the Russian soldiers are Count Nicholas Rostov and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Count Pierre Bezukhov, 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, Nicholas's sister, but she is too young, so he gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, manipulative Princess Helene. 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. Months later, Pierre and Andrei meet again. Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, but his father will only permit the marriage if they postpone it for one year until Natasha turns 17. While Andrei is away on a military mission, ... Written by
Audrey Hepburn's salary of $350,000 for the film was the highest salary an actress had ever received to date. When notified of her record salary Hepburn modestly told her agent, "I'm not worth it. It's impossible. Please don't tell anyone." See more »
During a ball we hear Shostakovich's 2nd waltz. He was born 1906. See more »
[to the French soldier who is about to execute him during the retreat]
Are you afraid too, friend?
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Closing credits epilogue: 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. Tolstoy "WAR and PEACE" See more »
This film came out on DVD yesterday and I rushed to buy it. This version is the first to render all the detail and perfection of Jack Cardiff's amazing compositions and brilliant, varied photography. As a collection of memorable images, this film is better than any comparable historical epic of the period and even gives GWTW a run for its money. King Vidor's direction is a series of 'tableaux vivants' where the characters are not posing but acting in a very natural, period-specific way. I have never had a problem with this adaptation of Tolstoy's novel. I think it is a wonderful introduction to the period and the novel and that it is a very poetic, very original work in its own right. Henry Fonda's characterization is especially moving, including great memorable interactions with/reations to Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn, Helmut Dantine and John Mills, but all members of the cast are actually perfect. The harrowing last 45 minutes of the film manage to convey a sense of history, a sense of grandeur as well as to communicate very clearly Tolstoy's ideas about the meaning of life, by relying mostly on the power of memorable images. The most conspicuous handicap of this movie, in my opinion, is its soundtrack (in glorious mono).
The barely hi-fi recording of dialogues and music sounds pinched, hollow and tinny and it always has in very version I have ever seen: in the theatres, on TV and on video. Even the soundtrack album is an atrocity. In some scenes, before the necessary adjustments of bass and treble, Audrey Hepburn's and Mel Ferrer's voices actually hurt your ear. Nino Rota's very Russian-sounding score is serviceable and melodic, although rather sparse in its orchestration and in the number of players. One can only wonder what 'War and Peace' could have sounded like with a cohort of Hollywood arrangers, decent recording facilities and lavish, varied orchestrations in true high fidelity and stereophonic sound. According to Lukas Kendall of 'Film Score Monthly', the original recording elements of the soundtrack have long ago disappeared, which is the common lot of international, independent co-productions of the era. Someone somewhere is certainly guilty of skimping on quality or embezzlement for this 1956 movie to sound so much worse than a 1939, pre-hi-fi epic like GWTW. Like all VistaVision films, this one was meant to be shown in Perspecta Stereophonic Sound where the mono dialog track was meant to be channelled to three different directions, making it directional, while the separate mono music + sound effects track was generally directed to all three speakers at the same time. The results fooled the viewers into thinking everything was in true stereo and the reproduction of the music was usually in very high fidelity. Maybe the soundtrack used on the DVD is a mono reduction of those two separate tracks that has squandered that fidelity and maybe the DVD can be issued again with better results in some kind of 4.0 presentation. When they do, very little electronic restoration work will be needed to make the image absolutely perfect.
But let's concentrate on the positive: This film is a summit of visual splendour and its sets, costumes, colour photography, composition and lighting achieve, in every single scene, wonders of artistry, creativity and delicacy that will probably never be equalled. Suffice it to say that it has, among many other treasures, a sunrise duel scene in the snow that still has viewers wondering whether it was shot outdoors or in a studio and that will have them wondering forever.
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