War and Peace (1966) Poster

(1966)

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10/10
The epic accomplishment of this film will crush your skull.
saint#5027 January 2001
If you can find it, watch it.

Admittedly, the 7 hour plus running time is pretty daunting, but consider the source material. This film deservedly won the best foreign picture Oscar when it was finally released in the U.S. The fact that a Soviet film was able to garner such an award during the height of the Cold War is a testament to its greatness.

There are 3 intermissions to this, the Pangaea of all epic films, and each section draws the viewer in more than the last. The spectacle will blow your mind in a way that digital effects never will be able to do. To actually see the Red Army (and what looks like all of it) marching in costume over the expanse of miles into the distance will change any prior notions of spectacle you held. Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, whatever awed you before is chicken feed compared to the brutal grandeur of Bondarchuk's recreation of The War of 1812.

There are beautiful interludes of excellent acting amidst extremely costly sets--it's a shame I don't know Russian because those subtitles chew up a lot of exquisite scenery. The characters are fully developed, the direction is inspired (no run-of-the-mill static camera work in any of this).

They showed this in 70mm at The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood last year. Before that it was 10 years without a screening in the U.S. We can't afford to let this shimmering prize of film history lapse. In a theatre, or if it is ever issued on DVD, this movie will deeply reward all those who watch it. There was nothing as grand as War & Peace before; there will be nothing on its scale ever again. Treasure this masterpiece...if you can find it.
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10/10
Collossus
OttoVonB29 May 2006
War and Peace, to many, is synonymous with a colossus of a book. The ultimate door-stopper. It is among the most complex and epic works of literature ever written. In 19th century Moscow and St-Petersburg, youths grow, make their mistakes… hearts are bound and then broken… and then the great war against Napoleon tears all these lives apart. Leo Tolstoy created intimate portrayals, compelling characters and epic action, telling the story of an entire country and an entire era effortlessly and elegantly. So if books are often difficult to adapt, this one should be completely impossible (witness the shallow King Vidor adaptation).

This film is the stuff of legends. Reportedly one of the most expensive productions ever created, Sergei Bondarchuk's "War and Peace" benefited from the Red Army's involvement and the Soviet Government's financing, and clocks in at about 7 hours. It is as faithful to its source as could be imaginable. In fact, it almost transcends its source.

Admirably cast (the angelic Liudmila Savelieva is ideal as Natasha Rostova and the director was unbelievably wise in casting himself as Pierre Besukhov), elegantly transcribed into a witty screenplay and enacted with class and conviction by its immense cast, "War and Peace" is not just a good adaptation. Its merits as a film are colossal. The cinematography defies any other film, particularly during the battle scenes: rejecting the painterly staticism of Barry Lyndon and the simple charging and distant shots of older films, the violence in Sergei Bondarchuk's epic mirrors that of Kingdom of Heaven (2005!!!), as the camera flies over a never-ending battlefield at full speed, glides aver frantic canons and divisions, crashes into mêlées and follows haunting stampedes of riderless horsemen (a potent metaphor for how the great leaders of the time lost all control over the conflict's proportions). All this without a pixel of CGI in sight (and all the better for it as it presents shots that the eye would simply refuse to believe if generated by a computer) The epic battle of before the sack of Moscow is so colossal and devastating, that even Napoleon looks confused at how to feel before the ocean of corpses sprawled before him. This is the greatest display of cinematic warfare ever committed to the screen. That the calmer scenes manage to sustain that level of excellence is a testament to how grandiose an effort this film is. The display of repressed emotions and overt tenderness are heart-breaking and many episodic scenes stand out magnificently, such as the wolf hunt, the opening balls (easily rivaling anything in "Il Gattopardo") and the duel. This is a film to which the fantastic "Dr Zhivago" feels like a small appetizer… Bondarchuk's "War and Peace" reaches beyond the book and in doing so successfully is one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. It is cinematic poetry and entertainment of the highest order. And to sum things up in an overused – but never more appropriate than here – they'll never make'em like this again.
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10/10
Amazing Epic
richard-larios27 February 2004
I remember seeing this film without a break back in the 1970s in Greenwich Village. It's a grand work of art. The movie started around 9pm and ended 5:00 am. It was snowing outside. I felt we had all lived through the War with Napoleon, seeing Natasha grow (the movie took so long to make that the young actress visibly grew before our eyes), and confronting the issues of war and peace.

It was in Russian with English subtitles. That was better than the TV version some years later that was overdubbed. The feeling of the actors didn't come through in that broadcast.

The music was extraordinary. There was a certain waltz that intrigued me. Saw the other War and Peace with Audrey Hepburn that just could not compare to it. It was too lame.

Nothing in film today can compare to those battle scenes. Nowadays, such scenes are too computerized.
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the very best!
artnamy3 January 2002
The best film ever made, ESPECIALLY when taking into account all the logistics - the Soviet Government as a film studio?? (sort of makes sense, after you picture Leonid Brezhnev as Louis B. Mayer), and the world's most infamous LONG novel turned into a megamotion picture.

It probably hasn't been seen in the US on a broad scale since ABC had the good sense to run it as a four part late-night special in early 1973 (anyone else remember)?

Not even subtitles - for those of us who are not true foreign film buffs, I mean - can hurt this film. Bondarchuk's amazing direction, as well as his acting, is breathtaking. The Russian people have been celebrated as lovers of great writing and the subject at hand, "War and Peace", becomes a poem at the conclusion.

Truly magnificent from every level - as a period piece, a psychological drama, a war movie, a love story, a history...Tolstoy would be universally acclaimed ahead of Shakespeare if he (Tolstoy) had the good sense to be from England...

Don't miss it. How the Soviet Government, at the height of the Cold War, could finance and produce a masterpiece like this is one of the great mysteries of the 20th century. Give Bondarchuk the credit.
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The most faithful movie adaptation of a book I've seen
Sascha Tesch28 October 2000
When you see the movie that adapts your favorite work of literature you have high expectations. You have a picture of the scenes, locations and characters in your mind, and hardly ever a movie comes close to those images. Likewise, I found the 1954 movie War and Peace very disappointing. I was prepared for a similar experience before I saw the two-part movie by Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk. And was surprised. Still, the seven hours' version still omits many facets (including the almost satirical epilogue) of the original 1600 pages work of Leo Tolstoy. But never before lived a movie up to the images of my mind like this one. The actors, the locations, must have been picked very carefully, because they are very close to how they are depicted in the book. In more than one instance I had the feeling that my imagination had been brought to the screen. But it isn't the faithful rendition of the material alone that makes this movie so unique and wonderful. The broad scope of emotions, the grand scale of the aristocracy's parties with all their luxury, the battles with tens of thousands of extras, the impressive burning of Moscow, the actors who don't act but live the plot, it all adds to the wonderful experience of this film. This movie is highly recommended to any true lover of Tolstoy's book, who is interested in Napoleonic history or simply anyone who likes deep, moving, impressive movies. For anyone interested in Napoleonic history, I also highly recommend Bondarchuk's Waterloo, from 1969/70.
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10/10
An incredible realization
hawparks22 May 2005
Ever since I've heard about this movie, I always wanted to see it. It was not until recently that I acquired a great Russian DVD copy with multiple subtitles. A restoration of the complete 7 1/2 hour long, widescreen version thought to be lost for a long time. It took me a whole week after work to see it all (4 DVDs + 1 of extras) and during the weekend I had to see it again, this time with company who also enjoyed it until the end.

I'm certainly not a movie critic or pretend to be so I'm not going to dissect and criticize this movie. It is just the urge to express my joy when I confirmed again that the cinema is undoubtedly a new form of art from the 20th century. It is a media that can display (audio visually) all the forms of art. Theater, music, paint and in this particular case, literature. I must confess that I never read the whole "war and peace" book, just a digest in high school. I calculate that it would take me at least a month of daily reading during a whole vacation with nothing else to do but to read the whole book. And in 5 years I m sure I'll remember the movie better than the book, just like many other movies made after the book. For instance; when I think of "A street car named desire" I immediately think of Brando yelling "STELLA", reading the Tennesee Williams play couldn't make me feel what the picture did, but the picture made me feel what Williams wanted me to feel. Many times the movie differs from the book and fails to deliver the message or feeling that the author pretends, usually because of the "natural handicap" that movies have which is the short time (usually 2 hours) to complete a whole novel. The best example to probe this should be the other "war and peace" from 1956. There is just no comparison. And since I'm not a critic I give this a 10.
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10/10
Subtitles and original dialogue please.
John-15321 February 2000
If at all possible try to see the film with the original language soundtrack and subtitles. The sound of the original Russian dialogue complements the stunning visual sweep of the film in a wonderfully satisfying way. The dubbed version on the other hand degrades the whole experience horribly.
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A most extraordinary film!
stomberg23 June 2002
If possible, this is a film to be seen before reading the book! When Count Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace he was at the height of his mental powers. Tolstoy's in-depth understanding of the Russian people is transmitted ably by the director of the film, Sergei Bondarchuk. Bondarchuk's stress on authenticity as manifested in clever cinematography is perhaps unequaled in modern film making.

One has the feeling to be involved in the battle scenes and also the more intimate drawing room sequences.

The foundations of War and Peace are largely to be found in Tolstoy's keen interest in history.

Bondarchuk said, "We have tried to involve the spectator in the events on the screen to make him experience what Tolstoy's characters experienced and the atmosphere in which they lived." This has been done admirably.

Dag Stomberg
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butchered classic
Stig-43 July 2000
Do not watch the US video release, it's a disgrace; a bit like cutting off a bird's wings and forcing it to bark like a dog. The original is breathless in scope and profoundly moving - it is in four parts and runs close to seven hours, and there are good reasons for its length as any can guess who have read the book. If only someone had the conviction and decency to prevent this kind of mangling. I wonder how Tolstoy would have felt if they had told him 'War and Peace', the 'US version', would only be published as cliffnotes.
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10/10
Leo Tolstoy: "My idea, in its entirety, is that if vile people unite and constitute a force, then decent people are obliged to do likewise; just that."
Galina27 September 2007
Sergei Bondarchuk, one of the most talented and important Russian filmmakers (he is known as an actor and epic- director) had made many good movies, very interesting technically and artistically. All of them are based on the first-class books (novels, stories, plays, and non-fiction) by the talented writers: Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin, Anton Chekhov, John Reed, and Mikhail Sholokhov, a Nobel Prize winner for Literature. Sholokhov's authorship of "Quiet Flows the Don" has been questioned lately but the novel is undeniably great.

Bondarchuk's finest directing achievement is 7 hours long epic "Voina i Mir" aka "War and Peace" which is a great film, worth of all money and effort spent. "War and Peace" which took over five years to complete is a masterful combination of many genres (just as Leo Tolstoy's greatest novel is). It is an awesome epic, and a lot has been said about the breathtakingly spectacular battle scenes that were shot on the historical locations and involved tens of thousands of extras, horses, explosions, and complex camera moves. The film is also the incredibly accurate period piece, moving romance, family drama, search for meaning of life (as all Leo Tolstoy's works are: "I want only to say that it is always the simplest ideas which lead to the greatest consequences. My idea, in its entirety, is that if vile people unite and constitute a force, then decent people are obliged to do likewise; just that. "). There are so many unforgettable scenes in the film: the first Natasha's ball and her waltz with Andrei Bolkonsky, the death of young Petya Rostov from a stray bullet, the meeting of Natasha and deadly wounded Andrei and their conversation...and many, many more. Sergei Bondarchuk's choice of the actors for the familiar and beloved characters has proved to be mostly successful. Ironically, the least convincing is for me Pierre Bezukhov. Bondarchuk cast himself as one of the most important novel's heroes, Leo Tolstoy's alter ago, and even though he was a very talented actor, I can't forget that he was twice as old as Pierre when he took the role. One of the most memorable performances was given by the veteran screen and stage actor, Anatoly Ktorov as old Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky. Ktorov's aristocratic looks and noble manners along with his talent made him simply perfect for the role of opinionated, proud, sarcastic but frank and absolutely non-sentimental nobleman. Antonina Shuranova shot to fame in 1966 after her stunning film debut opposite Anatoli Ktorov as his daughter and Andrei's sister, Princess Mariya with her "radiant eyes". Bondarchuk took the risk casting young professional ballerina Lyudmila Savelieva in the coveted role of Natasha Rostova, the most beloved female character in the Russian Classical Literature. Savelieva was natural as Natasha whom we see first as a 12 year old restless, spontaneous, gushing girl and in the final scene as a young woman who had lived though mistakes, regrets, and terrible losses.

I've seen "Voina i Mir" many times. I was even lucky to see it on the big screen in Moscow. It was originally released in four parts: I: Andrey Bolkonskiy (1965), II: Natasha Rostova (1966), III: 1812 god (1967), and IV: Pierre Bezukhov (1967), and for many years it had been shown in Russia as four films. To see this miracle on the big screen was the experience I will not forget.
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Even mangled it's great
dgsweet18 March 2000
The video edition is pan-and-scan and dubbed. A subtitled, full-length version was run on PBS, but it was also a p&s version. One of these days, I hope a widescreen version will be released on DVD. This is not only one of the most visually impressive movies ever made, it is also an extremely resonant one, filled with marvelous, detailed performances and shot in a frequently audacious style. Even today, more than 30 years after it was shot, there is stuff that nobody has come close to in this picture -- huge battle scenes where you can see the geometry of the tactics, a ballroom scene that rates with the most romantic, a duel that truly feels as if lives hang in the balance. Great movie.
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10/10
Perfect!
vdg16 September 2004
Most of the Russian movies have something in common: a highly dramatic content. This one is not of an exception either…a very touching human drama in times of Peace and WAR. I shall not say the same things that other reviewers said, so I just want to mention the brilliant camera work and the almost flawless direction.

I was expecting a rather conservative approach of the camera, with pan and scan shots, but at some times I was pleasantly surprised by different techniques: you'll have to see the movie for yourself…as I wont make a technical analysis here. There are certain scenes where you get the feeling that you are privileged in watching them, as a spectator, but at the same time you can 'feel' the atmosphere so real, so you might think you've been there for real…

The music, ohhhh…the music…flows through the whole movie so natural: from the Russian folk songs to the army marches, going through the waltzes and other époques music styles. There a quite a few scenes where there is nothing else but MUSIC, and a wonderful camera work.

One special note about the actors: beside Sergei Bondarchuk (who is the director as well) we have a cast of brilliant actors that are just perfect for their roles. Indeed the scenario is very good, so their roles are well developed, but nevertheless , the young Lyudmila Savelyeva is quite a Russian gem that unfortunately has not been used much in the later years…

What can I say more about this movie…just that there is new version on 5 DVDs, with a 5.1 re-mastered soundtrack, and with an acceptable picture quality: sometimes you can see some dark corners, scratches and so one..but overall is the best version you'll be able to find..so GET IT and WATCH IT.

10/10 – perfect movie for movie lovers!
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10/10
The epic film in it's most perfect form
D_vd_B3 May 2007
This film, made in the 60, is one of the greatest triumphs of Russian cinema. The budget was enormous, but when you watch this film, you have the feeling that it was all spend in a good way.

The first part opens with a lineup of nature scenes followed by an introduction of the main characters. There are the three main characters: Andrei, Pierre and Natasha, and many many smaller roles, but you'll get plenty of time of to get to know them.

The first thing that makes this movie stand out, is the size of the production. The sets are huge, the clothing looks very real and you'll see no empty air between the extras in the crowd scenes.

But the directing is what makes this movie so special. First of all, you hear the thoughts of the characters as a voice over. This might take some seconds to get used too, but works great. You can see that the actors understand their characters, or at least do they know how much these persons know about themselves.

The feeling is incredible. When you are outside, you can almost smell the air and feel the cold (or the warmth of the sun). The indoor scenes vary from claustophobic to cozy. The estates are full of life when there are guests, but after they leave and the sun goes down, the halls become cold and dark.

The battles have great atmosphere. They don't really focus on the battle itself, but more on the madness of them. So there are some structural battle shots missing (the approaching armies, building tense music and the way the soldiers come closer are only shown in the first battle) and mostly you'll be placed right in the action. And the battles aren't shown as something glorious. The main focus is on the madness of the fighting itself. When the first cannonballs fly trough the air, some soldiers become insane bloodthirsty killers that don't care for their allies, while other become mad with fear. All this bloodshed is shown with a shaky camera covered with dirt and dust, a technique later used by many modern directors like Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan. And all this spectacle is done with thousands of extras, hundreds of horses and canons and under giant pillars of gun smoke.

But when there is not battle going on, the surrealism never leaves the characters. They dream and imagine things in a colorful way. There is a great scene where two people are sitting in a room with dripping water. They don't know what to say to each other and all you really hear is the water. This makes it a very nervous scene, but it's exactly how these people feel at that time.

The 4 parts are pretty balanced. The first part is the most open part, with a little of all (spectacle, drama, surrealism). Part 2 has the most personal drama, and 3 a lot of spectacle. Part 4 is a grande finale that will knock you out of chair, help you back in and knock you out again.

The acting is not the best I have ever seen, but it's better than most Russian films. The main characters act very well, but there are some smaller parts that seem a little over acted. The music is not beautiful, but that was never it's intention I think. There is no real main melody and no particular theme that comes back, but the choirs and orchestra are there when they can be used. This film doesn't need a soundtrack that carries it, and that was understood by the composer. The music is not dominating and you cannot whistle with it, but when it's there you might just experience one of the most complete movie moments of your life.

8 hours long, Russian with subtitles (no problem for me, but I understand people that have English as their first language are not used to them), drama and philosophy. Don't watch this film for it's battle scenes alone, but enjoy every scene. It might take a while, but when the last credits are rolling off the screen, you'll have no idea that 8 hours can be so easy to kill.

A great movie, near perfect. If you like directors like Eisenstein of David Lean, this might just be your new favorite film. Give it even a second viewing a couple of months after the first one.

10/10
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10/10
Not an original statement, but it's a cinematic masterpiece
relaxer420 October 2006
When this movie was done I was a little frustrated because of certain things that were left out of the book. Boris practically didn't exist, Nikolai Rostov also had significantly less time which almost made Sonya obsolete. Prince Andrei's father did come off as horribly mean as he was in the book which didn't make you hoping for Princess Maria. Natasha didn't seem as wishy washy in this film as she is in the book (probably because of the near exclusion of Boris). I could go on and on about things that were missing from the movie but when it comes down to it, what's the point? It's a huge book to adapt and 8 hours as it is is a huge amount of time for a film. With that said, the elements from the book that are in the film are wonderful. Often the film is word for word from the book. The realism of the film perfectly matches with the realism of the book. The battle scenes were absolutely amazing. If you liked the book, you must see this movie. As I said, there are some things missing and it does get a little rushed at the end, but that doesn't make it a bad film at all. If you haven't read the book, I would say please read it first. I think you might not completely understand certain parts of the film without the book. Most of you will be fine, but a few things the book helps clear up.
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A project so gigantic that it had to be funded by the Soviet Government.
TheVid3 December 2002
Bondarchuk brings Tolstoy's enormous literary work to the screen with all the scope and pomposity that the Soviet film industry could muster in the sixties. It's a long, two-part movie that tries to give moviegoers as much of an experience as readers often get from the novel. It's generally successful in a clinical way. The production design and set pieces are delivered on a massive scale, with battle scenes that are basically re-enactments of history. There's enough creative casting to make most of the characters come alive, although much of the drama is wooden and stagey (just as in the book, I might add). All in all, this is probably the biggest visual spectacle ever put on film, even in the age of CGI (a fact which only makes the viewer more appreciative of the logistics involved in setting up a production as big as this). A colossal epic that gives true meaning to the term "years in the making with a cast of thousands!". Image/Rusico is presenting a definitive DVD version in the Sovscope widescreen ratio with the original 70mm six-track magoptical sound on four discs. That's around 7 hours of subtitles for those inclined to see this spectacle in it's purest form.
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10/10
The most epic movie that no one has ever seen.
Boba_Fett113829 December 2007
This is one real grand old fashioned epic movie, in basically every way imaginable. But how many people have actually ever heard or watched this movie? Surprisingly not nearly as much as it's deserving. It of course also has to do with the fact that this movie was made at the time of the cold war, so this movie wasn't largely viewed or available in the West. And of course its extreme long running time is also an element that prevents lots of people from watching this.

Yes, you can view the movie in parts, since each part of the movie forms a new different 'chapter' (Chapter I: Andrey Bolkonskiy, chapter II: Natasha Rostova, chapter III: 1812 god, chapter IV: Pierre Bezukhov) of the story, focusing on another character, in either war or peace but its of course best and most effective to watch this movie as one whole. After all the chapters and characters are of course all connected. There are a couple of characters that appear- and connect the 4 stories. The chapter themselves also aren't at all times chronological with each other and its rather 4 different tellings and different point-of-views, each of them providing more in depth of the story and characters. Each chapter has of course its own qualities and some are more appealing than others for certain people. And even though the movie its running time is over 7 hours, it still is a movie that moves along just fine. Despite not having the most fast pace, it never drags.

It's especially the contrast between the war and peace situations that makes the movie so epic and powerful in what it tries to achieve. Each chapter focuses on a different either war or peace situation. I think Tolstoy himself would had been pleased with this adaption of his novel.

It's probably one of the, if not the, most expensive movie ever made but that's hard to really say because of the inflation. So it can't be really said how much this movie cost to make with today's money. The movie not in the least also was so expensive because it took years to make it. It was good to see that they didn't just only put all in the money in the battle sequences of the movie but also obviously in the overall look of the movie. The movie features some amazing large detailed sets and good, detailed, authentic looking costumes. But it of course are still the battle sequences that will impress the most. It will blow your mind. Ten-thousands of extra's were used during the big battle sequences. I keep saying this but it's always more impressive to see an extreme number of real humans charging than it is to watch a grand CGI-battle, no matter how realistic and impressive it all looks.

What I also liked during the battles was that it in parts used the same style as '20's and '30's Russian genre movies, in its camera-work and style of editing mostly. No doubt an homage to the good old golden days of Russian cinema. But the movie overall also uses a great and unique unusual style at times. It uses lots of tricks in parts, such as split-screens and extreme fast editing, to often give the movie an unique and sort of surreal feeling. The movie would often also feature some extreme long shots, in which the camera moves all the way through the ballrooms or other rooms in the palaces or over the battlefield.

The acting in the movie is also surprisingly great, as far as I'm able to judge that. I mean it's also hard to really judge the acting quality in a movie in a language that you don't speak or understand for yourself. Seemed to me that most of the actors in this movie are normally stage actors, which was a good and suiting acting style for this, of course sort of overblown, movie. The movie of course features a whole lot of characters but they all get the right required treatment and are deepened out. The long running time of course allowed this all to be possible. No way this movie would had worked out as good as it was just 'merely' a 3 hour epic.

I think the fact that the movie won an Oscar for best foreign film, despite of the cold war at the time, shows how brilliant the movie is.

10/10

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8/10
Voyna i Mir
trochesset21 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
War and Peace is a tremendous film, and an undertaking which will never be rivaled. Bondarchuk secures a spot for all time in adapting, directing, and acting in this giant spectacle. Its in my top 50 greatest films of all time, perhaps top 25, and I have had the privilege of seeing many masterpieces.

It is a film though, not with out its flaws. I think that War and Peace is a film that any filmmaker should watch and use as a guideline of what to do...and what not to do. First, the flaws: Bondarchuk lingers too much, much of the film is poetry, but one can only take so many shots of trees and the sky, and the battle that is part III is just far too long, when its intention is to show us the chaos of war, as viewed by Pierre-so there is no real development to the battle, its just random chaos carried over the course of 78 minutes-and that equals far too many overhead shots and shots of the legs of horses. The scene is spectacular, but for what it is trying to convey, it could have been done just as effectively in 40. I have no problem with the overall length of the movie, I just wish that more of the length was used to expand on existing characters or add other ones left out from the novel; rather than all of these aerial shots and shots of trees, and people looking off into space.

Like Cy Young, even with all of its flaws, this film has twice as many shinning victories. It gets better as it goes on, and parts III and IV are definitely the best and most spectacular parts of the film. The battle from part II is nothing compared to the one in part III, and the burning of Moscow is a candidate for the most spectacular scene ever filmed. Bondarchuk does so much right in this film, I don't know where to start, but one thing I will note is that this is no boring by the letters film. While Bondarchuk would have benefited from a Hollywood cameraman, what he achieves here is simply amazing, and I must thank him for being so experimental. Sure, a lot of the experiments don't work all that well, and have aged a bit, but the ones that work, work marvelously, and it keeps the film fresh. This film would have been much poorer if it were made like "Gettysburg", or in the manner of your standard movie, because with a running time of nearly 7 hours, this film demands innovation and freshness.

In the end this film is a monument of the medium. Not the most perfect film, but undeniably one of the greatest, and a must see for every movie lover.
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9/10
A "Moving" Movie
ttoelenko27 June 2005
I haven't seen the DVD version,but I have seen the English version in the movie theater,and,on the whole,loved the movie.Its spectacles,such as battle scenes,hunting scenes and ballroom scenes are magnificent and breathtaking.The costumes and settings are authentic and beautiful! I loved the sepia colour of the film---it gives the movie an old--fashioned,nostalgic and poetical look! The movie's chief accomplishment is its ability to draw the spectator into the scenes and to make them experience the same emotions that the characters are experiencing:i.e. Pierre's relief and joy at the end of the movie ,when he is riding through Moscow ,as it's being rebuilt.

As one writer pointed out,the relationships between characters ARE stilted.I was somewhat disappointed by the depiction of the relationship between Prince Andrew and Natasha:it lacked the charm,poetry and poignancy as described in the novel.
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An incredible film
robot12324 March 1999
I have never read Tolstoy's novel, but I have seen several screen adaptations of it. This version far outshined the others, and it stands alone as one of the greatest films I have ever seen. It is filmed with a rich sort of beauty; it is very visually pleasing. Colors are bold and contrast is sometimes sharp. The camera lens sweeps forward, spins on its side, and waltzes along with the path of the characters. It is a very human portrayal. The camera is not a static periscope, but more like spying through the vision of a real person. Although it is quite a long movie, it never fails to keep my attention.
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10/10
The film is marvelous
tsanev26 December 2004
The film is marvelous /Academy award for foreign film in 69/ and close to the book anyone could make. It was directed with a big Russian heart, only Bondarchuk could do /see some of his other masterpiece like "Sudba cheloveka" or "Povest o nastoyashchem cheloveke"/ The book itself is going to be impossible task for 99% of the average Joe and Mary in the USA, even though it is one of the greatest book in history of mankind and a "must read" for every person calling himself half intelligent.

Anyone recommending the the US version of "War and Peace" should realize that those films are so far away from truth as if the Russians try to do a movie about the Civil War in the States. I am not a Russian, though I read the book in Russian when I was 14, and I am thankful to my mother pushing me to do it. I saw the movie for the first time 20 yrs. ago and many times since then.

Yes, you who read those lines READ the book, it will open your mind, and it will make you more knowledgeable about the Russian soul, which is big as the fields of Siberia, knowledgeable of an important period of European history.
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10/10
Epic
MaximusXXX22 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Unlike many individuals who rank movies from 1-10, I have an additional 10-12 category, for Epic films, films that reach a category of their own and are basically equal among each other.

This 8 hours film is truly a masterpiece, not just for its time, perhaps for all time, no film has to date been made for as much money ( adjusted for inflation ) and such word for word layout, the film does unbelievable justice to the long book by Leo Tolstoy. The flaws in this film are non existent. This is one of the most perfect films to date in history.

The quality for a 60s film, indeed, a 70s or 80s film is astounding. The violence, the romance, the story, everything you can want in a film is there. Few films can truly measure up to this Epic.
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One of the best films ever made
SFfilmgoer11 January 2004
If there is any fault with this 7 hour movie, I didn't see it. This is an historical epic movie made in the old Soviet Union in 1968 with a cast of thousands.

The director did not overlook any detail - there are some unforgettable scenes, including Napoleon and his troops marching into Moscow to survey his conquest, a spectacular ballroom scene which has stuck in my mind for the past 30 years, unbelievable battle scenes, great acting, and much more.

This film is especially good for history buffs and for all who enjoy great artistic achievement.
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8/10
Magnificent but a bit confusing
Steve-5669 July 2003
I recently purchased the DVD release of this spectacular production. The battle scenes are breathtaking, but a bit confusing when you see infantry columns marching in circles and cavalry units galloping back an forth between the columns, with no apparent destination in mind. About half of the movie is dubbed in English, but the rest is in Russian with English subtitles and some of it is even in French with English subtitles! There are some scenes that are dubbed in English followed by Russian with subtitles then back to English, and so forth. It was quite challenging to keep up with the switching between listening and reading the dialogue. You can also see some of the Soviet influence in some of the scenes. There are a number of blustery patriotic songs and some rather over-dramatic soliloquies (sp?) scattered throughout the "War" portion of the movie. In spite of these drawbacks, I rather enjoyed this movie. War and Peace has always been one of my favorite stories, and this movie certainly does the book justice. The DVD version is spread over 4 discs (with a 5th disc containing bonus materials). It is packaged in a very attractive box and the discs themselves are attractively presented with images of the main characters and scenes. The widescreen format is nice because the subtitles are displayed in the blackened areas of the screen, rather than intruding into the picture itself. It's a bit on the expensive side (I paid $49.95 for it at Best Buy) but if you're a fan of the Napoleonic era or a lover of Tolstoy, it's worth it. I rate this movie a solid 8.0.
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9/10
"It is always the simplest ideas which lead to the greatest consequences"
ackstasis15 July 2008
Few people have been daring enough to even read Leo Tolstoy's epic story, "War and Peace (1865-1869)," let alone adapt it to the screen. At over 1000 pages in length, the novel is notorious for its intimidating thickness, but those who have read it will usually agree that it is one of the finest achievements in the history of literature. I've never been courageous enough to attempt the story myself, but Sergei Bondarchuk's 1960s adaptation, 'Voyna i mir (1967)' seemed an equally ambitious undertaking. At over seven hours in length – usually divided into four parts – the Soviet film defines "epic" in every sense of the word, and, with a budget of $100 million, it is also (adjusted for inflation) the most expensive movie ever made. Watching such a lengthy film in one sitting seemed a daunting task, so I instead decided to segregate my viewing into the picture's original four parts, over as many nights.

I'm the first person to admit my bias towards epic cinema. Regardless of all other factors, if there's sufficient spectacle then I'm a sucker for it. Bondarchuk's 'War and Peace' possesses spectacle in great abundance, and, in every frame, the picture's considerable budget has been put to excellent use. Even the most brief and discreet sequences are gloriously embellished with lavish set decoration and costuming, to such an extent that the flood of colour and creativity becomes almost overwhelming. Unlike comparable masters of epic cinema, such as the wonderful David Lean, Bondarchuk apparently has little use for precise cinematographic composition, and frequently the photography is entirely hand-held, no mean feat considering the bulkiness of those 70mm cameras. In some ways, the unexpected use of this filming style is distracting and occasionally sloppy, but it also adds a unique liveliness to the proceedings – why not brighten things up a bit with a dynamic camera?

The opening hour of Part One, 'Andrei Bolkonsky (1965),' is a watchable but occasionally tiresome introduction of the major characters, the most intriguing of which is Pierre Besukhov (Bondarchuk himself), whose habit for alcohol and recklessness must be stifled following the inheritance of his father's fortune. It is only during the first bloody battle that the director finally spreads his creative wings, and Bondarchuk's magnificent cinematic scope is almost awe-inspiring to behold, as thousands of soldiers fall amid the blood and smoke of open warfare. During these sequences, the film generally avoids spending too much time on any one character, and the director is evidently most concerned with offering an "God's eye" view of events, rather than from the perspective of war's insignificant pawns. Using this method, Bondarchuk is able to retain the "sprawling" tone of his source material, even if such spectacle comes at the expense of any intimacy that we might have had with the story's characters.

Part Two, 'Natasha Rostova (1966)' contains not a single gruesome war-time death, and yet I think I enjoyed it more than the previous instalment. The story almost entirely follows the exploits of the title character Natasha (Lyudmila Savelyeva), the adolescent daughter of a countess, whom we first glimpsed in Part One, as a bright-eyed and giggling youngster yearning for her first romance. By the story's conclusion, she has forever bid farewell to her childhood, and has entered the sobering years of adulthood, heartbroken and disillusioned. The film's first major set-piece – perhaps rivalling Bondarchuk's own battle recreations in scope and attention-to-detail – is a breathtaking New Year's Eve ball, adorned by hundreds of elaborately-costumed dancers who sweep across the floor with impeccable grace. Displaying a versatility that calls to mind a similar sequence in Orson Welles' 'The Magnificent Ambersons (1942),' Bondarchuk's camera glides majestically amid the flurry of waltzing couples, while retaining its intimacy through focusing the spectacle largely from Natasha's perspective.

By Part Three, Bondarchuk seems to have decided that mere personal affairs are no longer important – this episode is about war! Despite a brief running time of 84 minutes, '1812 (1967)' nonetheless contains among the most awe-inspiring depictions of conflict ever committed to film, surpassing even the grandeur of the Bondarchuk's work in Part One and later in 'Waterloo (1970).' Over the course of his film's production, the director sustained no less than two heart attacks – as one might expect, one of these came about during his recreation of the Battle of Borodino. I really can't blame him. This battle, which lasts the bulk of the film's running time, is a genuine battering of the senses, film-making of such overwhelming excessiveness that it just about places the viewer amidst the blasts of smoke and the shudder of cannon-fire. After somehow securing the support of the Soviet Government, Bondarchuk employed full use of their resources, and conscripted 120,000 men to help recreate the Russian Army's mighty encounter with Napoleon Bonaparte's forces.

I must admit I was surprised when, following Russia's so-called "moral victory" at the bloody Battle of Borodino, 'Pierre Bezukhov (1967)' opened proceedings with Field Marshal Kutuzov's reluctant retreat and Napolean's march onwards into Moscow. Nevertheless, Part Four is a visual masterpiece, and Bondarchuk once again presents us with dramatic episodes that are staggering in their intensity and attention-to-detail. During the burning of Moscow, as Pierre stumbles through a fiery inferno, the characters are almost completely obscured by the blustery splinters of ash that gust across the screen. The sheer intensity of the raging red flames often gives one the impression that Pierre has, with the arrival of the French, unexpectedly descended into the sweltering pits of Hell. The picture's eventual conclusion, though certainly sad, strikes just the right note of bittersweet, and we genuinely do feel as though we've just completed something very special. The overriding emotion is one of hope: wars will come and go, but life goes on, and life is the most important thing of all.
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A film of staggering scope and size
Wombat-1530 December 1998
Viewing both parts together of this Russian version of Tolstoy's War and Peace, it seems that every word and scene of the novel is on-screen. It took the Russian army to provide enough extras for the incredible battle scenes. Only the Russian steppes could provide a stage big enough for the recreation of the Battle of Borodino. They will stay in your memory for a long time. The scale, the sweep of Napoleon's thrust into Russia, the tens of thousands of extras, the thousands of cannon, cavalry, muskets, dead soldiers, are all an amazing movie experience. And, the battles are just a small part of the whole movie.
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