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This more-than-twelve-hour-long BBC TV version of the epic Tolstoy novel, War and Peace, starring Anthony Hopkins as Pierre, is a brilliant production, is the finest TV movie that I have ever seen and is based on the greatest novel ever written. The length allows sufficient time to fully develop the many characters over a long period of their lives. This is one area where TV can surpass the cinema.
This exceptionally well-done miniseries easily surpasses both the Vidor and
Bondarchuk versions. It makes the most of its nearly 13 hours, featuring
many excellent performances, strong cinematography, and a good script. In
addition, the director's use of long takes really allows the actors to
*interact,* adding to the overall feel of realism.
Hopkins is likeable and believable as the twitchy, self-conscious Pierre. Dobie is excellent as the somewhat distant Andrei -- he succeeds in being handsomely iconic without seeming stupid or wooden. In fact, it's hard to imagine a more effective performance of this role. And Morag Hood is very good as Natasha, once the character ages a bit (it's hard to accept a woman in her late '20s as a 14-year-old).
The writers and actors also avoid the cardboard characterizations of historical figures that so often plague historical fiction; the main adversaries in the "War" -- a self-important Napoleon and the disfigured, forthright General Kutuzov -- are both vividly portrayed.
There are occasional weaknesses, but for the most part, this is a wonderful production.
Anthony Hopkins stars in the role that brought him to my attention, that of Pierre Bezukhov. He gives a rendition of Pierre that is very convincing, and takes the character through an education that is far from sentimental, though it is very moving.
The depth of the novel is brought out by the length of the mini-series, which I saw on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre in the early 1970's. It is well shot, with wide open vistas that do some justice to the Russian countryside. The portrayal of Russian country life and its glittering high society of the cities is most convincing.
The performances beyond that of Hopkins are also quite strong. Very affecting was Alan Dobie as Prince Bolkonsky. The whole effort deserves 10 out of 10.
I am delighted to say that this miniseries is an excellent adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's famous book and it is remarkably faithful to the story line. What I do not understand is why this film version has not been set onto DVD yet. If it were I would buy it tomorrow. Nearly every major British Actor and Actress from the 70s appears in this version and I notice different items in the episodes every time I view my VHS version. I highly recommend this for anyone who wishes to read the book beforehand or afterward. I also enjoy seeing Anthony Hopkins as a very young man portraying a character full of energy, failings and then how the character through Anthony Hopkins matures by the end of the series.
I don't have much to say in addition to the adulations given by,
especially, those who watched this amazing series at a young age. I was
23 when it first broadcast on public television, a co production of the
BBC and Time-Life. I disagree with the verbose UK reviewer above, who
felt the episodes boring until about halfway. I was intrigued with
episodes 1 and 2, and utterly engrossed by 3, waiting impatiently for
the following week to bring the next episode. My only problematic
observation from the 1st episode was that it seemed a little stagy, as
if I were watching a stage play. Small criticism. Watching it again
37-odd years later ( have finished the 2nd DVD as I write this) I was
again engrossed, with the advantage of not having to wait a week for
the next episode! The only proper and accurate adaptation to the great
Considering this a television production, I was again impressed (and surprised) by the ambition and quality of the battle scenes. It was refreshing not see an exaggerated CGI army battling another CGI army. My favorite actors were Alan Dobie and a young Anthony Hopkins. Every time I see Hopkins in a movie, I immediately remember his outstanding performance as Pierre. The one scene I always remember is Alan Dobie ad Prince Andre, lying in the battlefield after being wounded while leading a futile charge at Austerlitz, lying on the ground, staring up at the sky and remarking about it, that all is vanity, illusion.
Finally, how can one forget Fiona Gaunt as Helene? Wow, those low-cut empire-style gowns. I kept fearing (if that is the word) that she wouldn't be able to "contain" herself. (Sorry for the moment of male levity).
My all-time favorite British TV production, even slightly ahead of the wonderful Upstairs, Downstairs.
P.S. Thanks to the viewer who pointed out that it was not shown on Masterpiece Theater. I always remembered that it was, and was regretting that Alistair Cooke's introductions and final comments were missing from the DVD. Now I know that they were not! But how I wish they were!
Someone posted a while back that this mini-series aired on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre" in the 1970's. This is an error. The series did indeed air on PBS via NYC's station WNET. "Masterpiece Theatre" is presented by Boston's WGBH and "War and Peace" was NOT aired under the MT banner.
I remember seeing this first when I was just 12. It definitely left an impact on me especially Alan Dobie's Prince. Also Natasha Rostova played by Morag Hood is a very interesting and free-spirited character. Ms. Hood has really brought natasha to life, so much so that sometimes you can't wait to watch what she's going to do next. The scenic backgrounds of Russia are beautiful and as always Anthony Hopkins dazzles in his rendition of Pierre. Anyone interesting in seeing a movie version of War & Peace must watch this and not the more recent versions (very dry and boring - would think it was shot in Texas). The scenes tend to linger in your memory..
I was more into the romance of the show rather than the battle scenes but I watched the entire production when in my early 20's. I thought Morag Hood was a good choice for Natasha, resembling in appearance and actions, a young Audrey Hepburn who had originally played Natasha in the 1950's production. This was the first time I ever saw the young Anthony Hopkins and was very impressed by his kind and sincere portrayal of Pierre and was also impressed by Alan Dobie as Andre! Well, lets face it, I thought they were both extremely handsome!!! As I said I wasn't into the historical aspect of it but enjoyed the storylines of the important families, the Bezuhov's, Rostova's and Bolkonsky's.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this first of all in the early 70's and was inspired to read the book twice !!. It is an excellent series making the full use of several outstanding actors and actresses especially Anthony Hopkins. I never really liked the character of Prince Andre until he was dying. I always thought that his rejection of Natasha was a bit premature in view of the nature of her transgression. The scale of the battle scenes was never going to be large in comparison with some versions of the book which have been filmed. The Battle of Borodino in particular, was a very major conflict.In these days, the use of technology would have been able to assist. War and peace is a massive story and I am unable to even start to summarise it other than to say that the hero does get the girl.
I remember seeing this when I was in high school and being mesmerized.
Having watched it at home now twice, I still think this an amazing
adaptation. Watching Anthony Hopkins stretch his legs in his first big
role is a wonder and presages all the kudos he was to receive in
ensuing decades. I also think Morag Hood was quite convincing as a
13-year-old girl through to a nearly-30 Natasha; in contrast to another
viewer who was bothered by a 30-year-old woman playing the girl
Natasha, I found her acting the part of a 13 year old to be convincing.
David Swift brings real complexity to Napoleon, and the family scenes of the Rostovs are a wonderful contrast to the dysfunctional Bolkonsky family. The acting is very good throughout (although Joanna David as Sonya does a bit too much weeping for my taste) and the peek into the Russia of the times is faithful to the book.
This production shows its age, especially the graininess of exterior shots compared to the interior studio film, but overall I think it a truly outstanding adaptation. I sure wish Alan Dobie was still working in film! Most of the secondary characters (Dolohov, Helene, and Katische) are quite good.
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