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 (Herbert Lom's) forces controlled much of Europe. Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, prepares to face Napoleon's troops together with Austria. Amongst the Russian soldiers, are Count Nikolai Rostov (Jeremy Brett) and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (Mel Ferrer). Count Pierre Bezukhov (Henry Fonda), 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 (Audrey Hepburn), Nikolai's sister, but she is too young, so he gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, manipulative Princess Helene (Anita Ekberg). 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. A few months later, Pierre and Andrei meet again. Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, but his father will only permit the marriage if ...Written by
Italian Director Mario Soldati directed about one-third of the movie, including the entry of the Grand Army into Moscow, their retreat, the Beresina Crossing, and scenes in Bolkonsky's country house. He appears only in the credits as a Second Unit Director. Contrary to what some may think, King Vidor directed the Battle of Borodino. See more »
When Natasha is sitting next the dying Prince Andrei's bed, she leans her both hands on her legs. In the next shot, when Kolya enters in the room, her right hand is on the top of the bed pole. See more »
Time and patience. Patience and time. The Grand Army is wounded, but is it mortally wounded? An apple should not be plucked while it's green. Patience and time.
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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 »
Two different versions of the main titles exists. Both of them in English. In the one, the credits are set against a neutral background, in the other against details of a painting of Napoleon in front of his troops. See more »
A Worthy (Though Flawed) and Much-Underrated Effort
Given that trimming Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE down to the length of one feature film (even at three-and-a-half hours) is probably a fool's errand to begin with, this 1956 version deserves more respect than it's generally gotten -- though the comments here indicate that the film may actually be gaining the respect that critics and film historians have so long denied it.
The movie does suffer from two undeniable shortcomings. First is the atrocious sound recording that has blighted virtually every Italian movie ever made. As some of the comments have noted, movies shot at Rome's Cinecitta had their sound post-dubbed rather than recorded on the set. But actually, this practice was then (and remains) very common. The sound in Italian movies stands out simply because they were so bad at it. The brutal truth is, even the greatest masterpieces of Fellini, De Sica, Rosselini, etc. are less than they might have been because Italian sound technology was so slipshod. And so it is with WAR AND PEACE: it's hard to suspend disbelief when soldiers struggling across a river sound like someone dropping quarters into a toilet.
The other shortcoming is the appalling miscasting of Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezhukov. It's the worst performance of his career, and he looks and sounds about as Russian as a slice of pumpkin pie. One commenter here said Alec Guinness should have played Pierre. It's an intriguing suggestion, and of course Sir Alec was always good. Even better, I think, would have been Peter Ustinov. In 1956 he was Pierre to the very life.
But the rest of the casting is genuinely inspired. Oskar Homolka as Gen. Kutuzov, Barry Jones as Count Rostov, Jeremy Brett as Nikolai, Herbert Lom as Napoleon -- all could hardly be improved upon. And Audrey Hepburn was simply born to play Natasha. And Mel Ferrer as Prince Andrei ... well, he did have his faults as an actor (to say the least!), but at least he looked the part.
Beyond that, the movie has lavish production values, impressive battle scenes, and one truly great and powerful sequence, the French Army's disastrous retreat from Russia, that takes up much of the last hour.
There's no substitute, of course, for reading the novel (I've read it three times myself). But this 1956 movie makes a worthy introduction, and even helps to keep Tolstoy's complex plot straight when you do get around to reading it.
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