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Voyna i mir I: Andrey Bolkonskiy (1965)

Napoleon's tumultuous relations with Russia including his disastrous 1812 invasion serve as the backdrop for the tangled personal lives of five aristocratic Russian families.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Natasha Rostova
...
Pierre Besukhov
...
Andrei Bolkonsky
...
Ilya Andreyevitch Rostov
Kira Golovko ...
Countess Rostova
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Nikolai Rostov
Irina Gubanova ...
Soniya
Anatoli Ktorov ...
Nikolai Andreyevich Bolkonsky
...
Princess Mariya
...
Lisa Bolkonskaya
...
Prince Vasili Kuragin
...
Hélène Bezukhova
...
Anatol Kuragin
...
Dolokhov
Elena Tyapkina ...
Akhrosimova
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Napoleon's tumultuous relations with Russia including his disastrous 1812 invasion serve as the backdrop for the tangled personal lives of five aristocratic Russian families.

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Genres:

Drama | War

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23 July 1966 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Austerlitz  »

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2.20 : 1
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User Reviews

 
"It is always the simplest ideas which lead to the greatest consequences"
9 July 2008 | by See all my reviews

Few people have been daring enough to even read Leo Tolstoy's epic piece of literature, "War and Peace (1865-1869)," let alone adapt it to the cinema 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)' seems an equally ambitious undertaking. At over eight 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 {over $700 million when adjusted for inflation}, it is also the most expensive movie ever made. Watching such a lengthy film in one sitting seemed a rather daunting task, so I've instead decided to segregate my viewing into the picture's original four parts, over four consecutive nights if possible. The experience began last night with 'Voyna i mir I: Andrey Bolkonskiy (1965),' first released in July, 1965 at the Moscow Film Festival.

I'm the first person to admit that I am disproportionately impressed by epic cinema. The story may be non-existent, the performances may be merely adequate, but if there's sufficient spectacle then I'm a sucker for it. Part One of 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 – if I'm going to have to sit through a stolid costume drama, why not brighten things up a bit with a dynamic camera?

The opening hour of 'Andrei Bolkonsky' is a watchable but occasionally tiresome introduction of the major characters, none of which are overly interesting, with the exception of 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 courageously fall in a breathtaking conflict 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, which he also employed to great effect in the English-language picture 'Waterloo (1970),' 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.


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