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War and Peace mini-series watchalong

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  • War and Peace mini-series watchalong



    We have yet another take on the famous novel coming to American TV starting on Monday, Jan. 18. The four episodes will air on consecutive Mondays on A&E, Lifetime, and the History Channel. It has a great cast and has gotten good reviews. The mini-series has already appeared on the BBC so some of you might have already seen it. My plan is to do a review of each episode as soon as possible after they air. Be aware of spoilers. What I would love is input on how the series differs from the novel. I love to read, but a 1225 page novel that is heavy on romance is not my cup of tea. I did read the parts on the Battle of Borodino for my review of the Bondarchuk version. http://warmoviebuff.blogspot.com/201...eace-1968.html

  • #2
    The first episode begins in 1805 with Napoleon threatening the Austrians and Russians. We get our first of what will apparently be a series of parties to introduce the main characters. The cinematography has some touches of the Bondarchuk film with its roving camera. Nice homage. Pierre is a milquetoast who is socially incompetent. He makes a bad impression as a pro-Napoleonite. His best friend Andrei oozes moroseness as he obviously is chained to a pregnant wife he is clearly not love with and not willing to pretend it. Pierre becomes fabulously wealthy when his father dies and is gold digger bait. He is seduced by Helene and he is voted most likely to be cuckolded. Pierre is your stereotypically last person to know that his wife is bedding everyone in town. There are other soap operaesque relationships. Natasha is one of the many characters, but she is not apparently going to be a key person in the plot. Several characters are off to war, including Andrei who is an aide to General Kutuzov.

    The acting is good and many of the actors are of the "where have I seen that dude?" ilk. Paul Dano is solid as Pierre. The rest of the cast holds its own as the film bounces around to catch up with each and the characters intersect. It takes a while to figure out who is sinister, but by the end of episode one it is apparent who is who. Kudos because the character development is well done.

    The battle scenes are spaced out and are fine, but truncated. Some of the the action scenes come to abrupt ends. Combatus interruptus. There is a moment in the film after Napoleon has defeated the Russians that he says "that'll do" - it seems he was speaking to the director. I wish there was more combat, but I guess I'll have to wait for the Battle of Borodino. The action is graphic at times and is realistically chaotic. The special effects tend to be explosions resulting in hurling bodies. Each battle commences with a showy macro view, but quickly becomes micro. The philosophizing shows Tolstoy's understanding of soldiers. One of the officers tells a rookie that you can not prepare for combat, you can only experience it to get it. It specifies that battle is like your first encounter with a woman - it can be exciting and/or terrifying. The best thing about the battle scenes is the surprise woundings of main characters. For example, the bayoneting of Andrei is very cool.

    "War and Peace" is certainly worth the watch. I will have to hear from others whether it is a good alternative to reading the book. Its been a while since I saw the Bondarchuk version so I can't really compare the plot. The first episode ends strongly with a duel cliffhanger. I am left wondering how Pierre is possibly going to survive. There's no way he is going to win.

    As soon as I can I'll let you know how historically accurate it is.

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    • #3
      I tried to watch it and fell asleep.
      Credo quia absurdum.


      Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is - absurd! - Richard Feynman

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      • #4
        Don't tell me who wins!
        Hyperwar: World War II on the World Wide Web
        Hyperwar, Whats New
        World War II Resources
        The best place in the world to "work".

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        • #5
          Originally posted by OpanaPointer View Post
          Don't tell me who wins!
          In love or in war?

          Spoiler alert: in the war, the side without the camouflaged uniforms wins.

          Comment


          • #6
            But only if they fight on a day without a Y in it.
            Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

            Comment


            • #7
              EPISODE 2

              Episode 2 begins strong with the duel between Pierre and Dolokhov. I have seen a number of duels in cinema and read of others but this one was unique. I guess there are innumerable rules for duels because this one had the two challengers standing facing each other at about 30 paces and then advancing toward each other. You can fire whenever. I don't have to tell you spoiler alert to warn you that one of the main characters (Pierre) survives the duel. Definitely an upset, especially since he had not bothered to practice and barely knew how to pull the trigger. Still the scene had quite a bit of suspense and was well-played. Pierre returns home to catch his wife with her brother! My God, a simple cuckolding was not enough?! Way to pile it on, Tolstoy. Pierre separates from his tramp of a wife and the episode takes a bizarre turn as Pierre is recruited into the Free Masons. WTF? I don't remember this development in Bondarchuk's version. Meanwhile, the other romances proceed. Andrei hooks up with the vibrant Natasha - at a ball, naturally. The cinematographer tries to vie with Bondarchuk, but quickly gives up. Pierre, a changed man now that he is a Mason, decides to give Helene another chance. He may be born-again, but he is still a naive sap. Another plot thread involves the dashing Nicolai being duped by his "friend" Dolokhov and putting the Rostov family in straits. Some other romantic carrying-ons occur as well.

              This was a disappointing episode. After the strong opening, it fizzles. Although the screenwriter had 90 minutes or so to work with, it still feels like the character arcs are too shallow. That may be due to too many characters, but the bigger problem is I am not fully invested in any of the couples. Natasha has not dominated as in Bondarchuk's opus. The only character adding spice is Dolokhov who is delightfully despicable. He is the breakout character and is played with charisma by Tom Burke. The introduction of the Free Mason subplot was head-scratching. Let's hope this installment was treading water before some upcoming fireworks. There was no intrusion of the war. The war is in a lull as Russia and France have signed a treaty. Boo! Thus the series seems to be in a lull. I'm hanging in there, but this episode was a yawner.

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              • #8
                I'm watching it with my wife. Two episodes in we are both enjoying it!

                I read the book about 40 years ago. I'm surprised how much of it I remember. There are so many characters I've been helping my wife keep up with everything that's going on.

                Which Leeds me to my 1st complaint. I want more episodes!

                The 1972 BBC series had a running time of 15 hours . The 2016 series has 12 hours minus commercials it will be about 9 hours. The book was over 1200 pages so there is plenty of material to work with.

                My second complaint, not enough War. Perhaps we'll get more action in latter episodes.

                Having said that, so far it is great!:
                "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Beatrice Evelyn Hall
                Updated for the 21st century... except if you are criticizing islam, that scares the $hii+e out of me!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by warmoviebuff View Post
                  I


                  Spoiler alert: in the war, the side without the camouflaged uniforms wins.
                  GEICO made some ads for the series.

                  Dry cleaners missed out. Whenever I see the fancy uniform s of the era I wondert how grunge the must have looked after being iin the field for a few days..

                  Some dry cleaning firm could have been the official cleaner of War and Peace!
                  "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Beatrice Evelyn Hall
                  Updated for the 21st century... except if you are criticizing islam, that scares the $hii+e out of me!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by 17thfabn View Post
                    My second complaint, not enough War. Perhaps we'll get more action in latter episodes.
                    :
                    They've had longer fights at the bar in 'Eastenders' than WandP had at Borodino!
                    The long toll of the brave
                    Is not lost in darkness
                    Over the fruitful earth
                    And athwart the seas
                    Hath passed the light of noble deeds
                    Unquenchable forever.

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                    • #11
                      Looks like History Channel only carried parts 1 & 2. Today they decided airing "The Curse of Oak Island" for the three hundredth time was more important.

                      Oh History Channel, how you have turned to .
                      A new life awaits you in the off world colonies; the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Pirateship1982 View Post
                        Looks like History Channel only carried parts 1 & 2. Today they decided airing "The Curse of Oak Island" for the three hundredth time was more important.

                        Oh History Channel, how you have turned to .
                        "History" Channel has shown some cheesy shows over the years. E.G. the search for ancient aliens, search for bigfoot, any thing about nostradumbass.
                        "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Beatrice Evelyn Hall
                        Updated for the 21st century... except if you are criticizing islam, that scares the $hii+e out of me!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Pirateship1982 View Post
                          Looks like History Channel only carried parts 1 & 2. Today they decided airing "The Curse of Oak Island" for the three hundredth time was more important.

                          :.
                          A&E and Lifetime are also showing the series. On one of them the 3rd part has been shown. I don't know why it is being shown latter on History channel.

                          We are behind the scheduled showings in the UK on BBC.
                          "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Beatrice Evelyn Hall
                          Updated for the 21st century... except if you are criticizing islam, that scares the $hii+e out of me!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            EPISODE 3

                            Episode 3 begins with more romantic intriguing. Boris is being pushed to woo the mousy Princess Maria by his mother. Is this a Jane Austen novel? Meanwhile, Natasha is waiting out the one year trial separation and pining for Andrei. She goes to an opera. What, no ball that night? There she meets Helene and her brother/lover Anatole. If this was HBO, we would be looking forward to a threesome. Since Anatole knows this miniseries is half the length it needs to be, he wastes no time. They go from footsy to fleeing in record time. Sorry, Andrei. You can't expect a girl that worships the ground you walk on to wait when there is a cad readily available. Anatole hooks up with the ever reliable Dolokhov for his daring elopement scheme. It fails and Anatole is forced to take a cold shower by the menacing Pierre. That's right - Pierre threatens bodily harm on another man and that man caves! What did Helene see in Anatole? Of all the men she could have (and does), she chose to sleep with her Pierre-scared sibling? I am beginning to lose respect for Her Slutitude. When Andrei returns, Pierre breaks the bad news to the guy who left the hot and immature Natasha behind for a year. Surprise! Andrei goes all holier than thou and refuses to forgive Natasha. He decides to drown his moroseness with a return to the war. In the army camp, he is reunited with Pierre who arrives dressed like a Three Musketeer. Flee in fear, Napoleon. If that does not happen, it looks like we will treated to the Battle of Borodino in the next episode.

                            This episode was an improvement over the second one. There is less talking, but more panting. There is also less dancing. The plot still seems rushed, but several of the scenes were intriguing. I'm beginning to get familiar with the multitude of characters and don't need a scorecard any more. The episode is dominated by the Natasha - Anatole affair. This is a problem since it is rushed to the point that it makes little sense for Natasha's character. She had not been portrayed as flighty bubblehead before this. She falls in lust with the odious Anatole too quickly. And he is portrayed as being in love with her. That is also out of character. The whole affair does not seem realistic. The other disappointment is the lack of Dolokhov. He only briefly appears and instead of stabbing some people in the elopement, flees with Anatole. Later, he begs forgiveness of Pierre. Gag! Although we don't get to see Dolokhov ruin or cuckold his friends, we do get to see the deaths of two tough-love fathers. (Or as the Russians called them - fathers). One falls off his horse heading off to evict Napoleon from the homeland. Hilarious! The other gains forgiveness from the daughter who he has tormented for her entire life via a death-bed mea culpa. All is forgiven, papa. This episode was again warless, but there are some refugees to show the effects of what we don't get to see.

                            The episode builds nicely to the Battle of Borodino. Hopefully, the payoff will be worth the wait.

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                            • #15
                              EPISODE 4

                              EPISODE 4

                              So we have finally arrived at the war part of "War and Peace" - the Battle of Borodino. Pierre, looking a little less like an effete dandy, approaches the irascible General Kutuzov (Brian Cox) and asks to see the elephant. Instead of laughing (which probably Kutuzov never did in his life), the general points out an artillery battery. At first, Pierre is a bit daunted by the mayhem, but he quickly gets into the adrenaline rush of combat. The sound and explosion effects are amazing and the chaos is well-depicted. This builds to an awesome special effect of Pierre being thrown back by an explosion. Meanwhile, Andrei is leading a column towards the French. He also has a date with an explosion. As if the combat is not graphic enough, Andrei ends up in a field hospital where the fellow on the next plank is having his leg amputated. In a trend that has occurred throughout the series, the now one-legged fellow turns out to be Anatole! How many Russians fought at Borodino? I should calculate the chances of this meeting, but it won't be the last moment of "it's a small world" in this episode. Take a drink every time characters intersect in unbelievably unlikely ways.

                              For instance, the Rostova's evacuate the soon to be fiery Moscow and not only does Natasha briefly encounter Pierre (who is on a quest to assassinate Napoleon!), but also the wounded Andrei. They make up. Awww! Apparently, it takes a grievous injury for Andrei to forgive. (His first wife wishes he had been on his deathbed for her.) Pierre continues his evolution to action hero by rescuing a girl from a burning building. Unfortunately, this arc is cut short when the would-be assassin is arrested and forced to accompany the French army on its frosty fleeing of Russia. The hardships of the retreat are realistically shown. He makes friends with an incredibly sympathetic commoner (and his dog, for God's sake!). I spent the whole relationship waiting for what's his name (sorry, I did not have my scorecard for this episode) to stab Pierre in the back and have his dog eat him. Helene gets a fitting end, so the hissing can cease. However, there goes one of the more delicious characters. Speaking of which, the dastardly Dolokhov makes a welcome reappearance as his cavalry unit is harassing the retreating French. It won't surprise anyone at this point to be told that he has a rendezvous with the only man who ever beat him in a duel. Did I mention it's a small world in Czarist Russia? We are now heading full tilt toward connecting all the dots so we can have a happy ending. Even the mousy, but now luminescent (now that daddy's dead) Marya, is destined for bliss. She certainly deserves it. And Nicolai is not even interested in her money! The ending flashes forward to a bright future reminiscent of "Cold Mountain".

                              This episode reminds of the second one - it starts with a spectacular scene, but then it's back to the usual hopping around to keep the character threads advancing toward their ultimate intersection. Surprisingly, there are no balls in this episode. (I mean dancing balls, of course.) Moscow is burning, after all. Not exactly a reason to be dancing. The Battle of Borodino is among some of the better combat scenes in a made for TV movie, but all too brief. It is decidedly macro and one gets little feel for the battle. Napoleon does make one of several appearances, but usually it is to spout some platitudes like "I shall bring civilization to these primitive Russians". The battle concludes with him ordering a withdrawal from the battle site and this leaves the impression that the Russians won the battle. This is confounded by Kutuzov ordering the evacuation of Moscow in spite of the victory. This flies in the face of historical accuracy as Napoleon actually bludgeoned the Russians to a pyrrhic victory. It was Kutuzov who had to retreat.

                              As was true from the beginning, the presentation appears rushed and is juggling too many characters. They may have had enough time to flesh out the characters more justly if it had not been for the commercials taking up all that useless time. Just kidding, I know they had to pay for the production and there is a dearth of ads. And all things considered, the juggling is satisfactory, if cursory. I will have to check out the novel's plot (due in a future post), but it seems a lot of the small-world aspects of the encounters are TV screenwriter simplifications. Although the series needed to be twice as long to do credit to the plot and characters, that length could have resulted in tediousness - a Catch-22 situation.

                              The production was superior in most aspects. The sets show an attention to early nineteenth century Russia. The interiors, especially the mansions, are "Downton Abbey" worthy. Bizarrely, the cinematographer has trouble with sunlight coming from the windows. How did that happen? The music is excellent. I had not really noticed it before, but it stands out in this episode. The acting is not great, but the actors do manage to get their characters right. Since Dolokhov does not appear nearly enough, acting honors go to Jessie Buckley as Marya Bolkonskaya. Marya is also the most appealing character. That should have been Natasha, but Lilly James does not bring the free-spirit out enough. Paul Dano is okay as Pierre, once you get used to the fact that Pierre is a bit of a stiff. His transition to man of action is a bit hard to swallow, but he certainly goes through enough hardships to justify a change in personality. It would have been entertaining to see him carry out his attempt on Napoleon, but that plot development is quickly dropped.

                              With the conclusion of the mini-series, I have to admit it was something of a disappointment. It is obviously not up to Bondarchuk's gold standard, but as a TV Cliff Notes version for the masses, it is serviceable. In a future post I intend to vet the series as representative of the novel, so I will wait to proclaim whether the series is a good alternative to reading the book. Speaking of gold standards, it might be appropriate to compare it to A&E's "Pride and Prejudice". In fact, the courting and upper class caperings reminded me of that miniseries. I had not realized how much Jane Austen had influenced Leo Tolstoy! "War and Peace" is not nearly as good as "Pride", but what is?

                              GRADE (this episode) = C

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