War and Peace (1956) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: By 1812, Napoleon's forces controlled much of Europe. Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, prepares to face Napoleon's troops together with Austria. Among the Russian soldiers are Count Nicholas Rostov and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Count Pierre Bezukhov, a friend of Andrei's and… Runtime: 208 min Release Date: 21 Aug 1956
King Vidor's version of Leo Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE has finally been released in the U.S. by Paramount and is a welcome addition to my DVD collection. I have been tempted many times to purchase a Hong Kong pressing of this title -- but I'm glad that I refrained. While this DVD does not contain much in the way of "Extras", it does contain a nice wide screen transfer that captures to look of its original release. Paramount, rather then following in the footsteps of the other major studios, did not use the CinemaScope wide-screen process developed by 20th Century-Fox and <more>
introduced in 1953 with their Lloyd C. Douglas adaptation of THE ROBE. Rather, Paramount developed their own wide- screen process and called it VistaVision. The VistaVision system moved 35mm film through the camera side-ways, resulting in a picture negative that was close to 70mm in size. The film was then reduced to a wide-screen image usally around 1.85:1 instead of CinemaScope's 2.65:1 ratio . Coupled with genuine Technicolor before it became teamed with Eastman Color photography, VistaVision was capable of stunning images. WAR AND PEACE was photographed by JACK CARDIFF, one of finest cinematographers ever to grace film THE RED SHOES is one of his works , resulting in one of the most beautifully photographed films of all-time! Alas, stereophonic sound was not generally employed by Paramount and so WAR AND PEACE has only a mono track -- nice, but not as nice a stereophonic track would have been. As to the film itself, I can only express that I have loved it from the first seeing in 1956 -- and continue to find it a great and involving film experience. The film is truly spectactular even when compared to the 6-hour Russian version of 1968 , but it works for me because of the human story. AUDREY HEPBURN as Natasha is perfection itself. She grows from the delightful innocence of childhood to the wisdom and beauty of adulthood. HENRY FONDA, often criticized as being wrong for the role of Pierre, is very effective as a man searching for and finding the true meaning of life and events. The film ends with this marvelous quotation from Tolstoy: "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". And that is what this film captures -- and this is what sets it apart from other great epics. Nino Rota's score is also a great asset to this films effectiveness. As to the DVD itself -- Paramount, while not restoring it in the manner done for their recent releases of ROMAN HOLIDAY and SUNSET BOULEVARD, have still provided us with a fine DVD! There is no commentary track most of the principals have passed away -- but it would have been nice to have heard from Jack Cardiff. Both the B&W Behind-the-Scenes Trailer showing location shooting of a key charge scene and a few words from director, King Vidor and the re-release theatrical trailer, are interesting. How does the film compare to the book? I'm currently reading the book -- and can honestly say that I'm glad that I've seen the movie first. It helps greatly in keeping track of the numerous characters and plot developments. The book is one of the enduring masterpieces of literature -- but this film stands on its own as a great motion picture! Thanks Paramount for the DVD release!!
Looks as good as GWTW but doesn't sound like it! (by benoit-3)
This film came out on DVD yesterday and I rushed to buy it. This version is the first to render all the detail and perfection of Jack Cardiff's amazing compositions and brilliant, varied photography. As a collection of memorable images, this film is better than any comparable historical epic of the period and even gives GWTW a run for its money. King Vidor's direction is a series of 'tableaux vivants' where the characters are not posing but acting in a very natural, period-specific way. I have never had a problem with this adaptation of Tolstoy's novel. I think it is a <more>
wonderful introduction to the period and the novel and that it is a very poetic, very original work in its own right. Henry Fonda's characterization is especially moving, including great memorable interactions with/reations to Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn, Helmut Dantine and John Mills, but all members of the cast are actually perfect. The harrowing last 45 minutes of the film manage to convey a sense of history, a sense of grandeur as well as to communicate very clearly Tolstoy's ideas about the meaning of life, by relying mostly on the power of memorable images. The most conspicuous handicap of this movie, in my opinion, is its soundtrack in glorious mono . The barely hi-fi recording of dialogues and music sounds pinched, hollow and tinny and it always has in very version I have ever seen: in the theatres, on TV and on video. Even the soundtrack album is an atrocity. In some scenes, before the necessary adjustments of bass and treble, Audrey Hepburn's and Mel Ferrer's voices actually hurt your ear. Nino Rota's very Russian-sounding score is serviceable and melodic, although rather sparse in its orchestration and in the number of players. One can only wonder what 'War and Peace' could have sounded like with a cohort of Hollywood arrangers, decent recording facilities and lavish, varied orchestrations in true high fidelity and stereophonic sound. According to Lukas Kendall of 'Film Score Monthly', the original recording elements of the soundtrack have long ago disappeared, which is the common lot of international, independent co-productions of the era. Someone somewhere is certainly guilty of skimping on quality or embezzlement for this 1956 movie to sound so much worse than a 1939, pre-hi-fi epic like GWTW. Like all VistaVision films, this one was meant to be shown in Perspecta Stereophonic Sound where the mono dialog track was meant to be channelled to three different directions, making it directional, while the separate mono music + sound effects track was generally directed to all three speakers at the same time. The results fooled the viewers into thinking everything was in true stereo and the reproduction of the music was usually in very high fidelity. Maybe the soundtrack used on the DVD is a mono reduction of those two separate tracks that has squandered that fidelity and maybe the DVD can be issued again with better results in some kind of 4.0 presentation. When they do, very little electronic restoration work will be needed to make the image absolutely perfect.But let's concentrate on the positive: This film is a summit of visual splendour and its sets, costumes, colour photography, composition and lighting achieve, in every single scene, wonders of artistry, creativity and delicacy that will probably never be equalled. Suffice it to say that it has, among many other treasures, a sunrise duel scene in the snow that still has viewers wondering whether it was shot outdoors or in a studio and that will have them wondering forever.
Leo Tolstoy would have been proud. . . (by directjw)
Those critics who accused King Vidor's "War and Peace" of being a gross simplification of Tolstoy's novel must never have actually read "War and Peace." The movie was a perfect adaptation of Tolstoy's epic which I have read twice . I was surprised that King Vidor could translate a 1000 plus page novel into a three and a half hour movie. Like the book, the film War and Peace is about the eternal battle between belief and unbelief, good and evil, ambition and altruism, between war and peace. The three main characters, Pierre, Natasha, and Andrey, are played <more>
perfectly by the three leads, and Audrey Hepburn lights up every scene she is in. Natasha is symbolic of the all-encompassing love which we all need to survive in a world in which selfishness and death exist. By deciding to leave Moscow, instead of facing the advancing Napoleon-led French army, the Russians are practicing Ghandi's teaching of passive resistance Tolstoy was a great admirer of Ghandi . Another great scene is when Andrey finally realizes on his death bed that death is just an "awakening," and that just one moment of love can redeem a life filled with hate. The film also did a good job of contrasting the characters of Napoleon, Pierre, and Andrey. In a way, Napoleon was the monster which both Pierre and Andrey could have turned into, and which, at certain points in the movie, Pierre and Andrey do turn into such as the scene where Pierre throws a table at his wife . However, the person who holds them back from turning into Napoleonic beasts is Natasha, whose love is transcendent. It was also interesting how the Russian general continually insisted on retreating instead of attacking the French army. By meeting destruction with peace, in the end, the Russians turn out to be victorious. There were a few sections of the book which would have been interesting to include in the film, such as Pierre's surreal dream sequence about death knocking on his door, or Pierre's involvement with the freemasons. Perhaps one scene summarizes up what the film, and the book, were ultimately about. When Pierre is about to witness a battle, he is holding a flower in his hand. Just as the battle turns deadly, the flower falls from his hand. Can one act of love redeem a lifetime of death and destruction?
For everyone but the pickiest Tolstoy buffs (by wuxmup)
King Vidor's 1956 production of "War and Peace" is another one of those mysteriously slighted motion pictures that critics just seem to ignore. This isn't a subtle movie, but as others have note, it's a terrifically entertaining distillation of Tolstoy's novel in the 1950's epic tradition. Nor does it trivialize the book. It just, well, simplifies it for the screen. Only the most finical and pedantic Tolstoy experts will object, and for them there's always the seemingly endless Soviet version of about ten years later.Is Henry Fonda miscast? Well, in real <more>
life he was too old for the part, but if you overlook that, you'll appreciate what a fine actor he was. Audrey Hepburn has never been better than here in the role of Natasha. The entire cast is a strong one, though some will feel the combination of Fonda and Mel Ferrer in top roles gives the picture an annoying California feel. Nevertheless, everything is done on a grand scale and despite the 3 1/2 hour running time, you won't be bored.
Audrey Hepburn and a cast of thousands (by Red-125)
"War and Peace" 1956 was directed by King Vidor and is based, of course, on the novel by Leo Tolstoy.Tolstoy's novel takes place during the Napoleonic wars in Russia. Interwoven with the grand march of armies are the personal stories of aristocratic men and women who lived through these times. The movie takes a parallel course. There are immense battle scenes intermingled with private scenes of romance, happiness, and heartbreak.When the film was released, Paramount emphasized the battle scenes--their authenticity, the accuracy of the costumes, and the immense resources <more>
required to mount and record these images. Remember, this was 1956. No computer-generated images. You saw on the screen what the camera saw at the moment of filming. I thought that the "war" aspect of the movie was very effective. Even more effective were the scenes of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. You could almost feel the cold, the hunger, and the mud.Paramount and Vidor wanted an all-star cast, and that is what they got. Anita Ekberg is Helene Kuragina, called "La Belle Helene." She's the most beautiful--and most ruthless-- woman in Russia. Henry Fonda is miscast as Pierre Bezukhov, the husband of La Belle Helene. Although rich, Pierre is supposed to be inept and clueless. Before a duel, he has to be taught how to fire a pistol. I felt like stopping the DVD to say, "Mr. Vidor--that's Henry Fonda. He was in "Fort Apache." He played Frank James. He knows how to fire a pistol!" On the other hand, Mel Ferrer is cast perfectly as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Ferrer was handsome and aristocratic in appearance and bearing. You accept him as a proud, brave, but somewhat cold hero.Audrey Hepburn was born to play Natasha Rostova. Her appearance matches what Tolstoy tells us about Natasha--large bright eyes, long slender neck, luminous skin. And of course, she could act! She and Ferrer had married shortly before the movie was made, and the chemistry shows. Incidentally, they must have been the most attractive couple in Hollywood in the 1950's. I thought the film was well made, and a good adaptation of the novel. The weaknesses in the film are what I perceive as the weaknesses in the novel. With one exception, all the main and supporting characters are wealthy aristocrats. The poor appear only as soldiers, troika drivers, and servants. Also, people who have read the novel know that Natasha makes a ghastly error of judgment. She's Tolstoy's creation, and it represents hubris to second guess him about his own characters. However, I still don't think she would have done it."War and Peace" carries an abysmal 6.7 IMDb weighted average. Why? You have Hepburn, Ferrer, glittering gowns, cavalry charges, and the French retreat from Moscow. Aren't those alone worth an eight or a nine?Seeing the movie on DVD was successful enough. However, it was made for the wide screen. If it ever plays at a theater, don't miss it. Until it plays at a theater, watch it on DVD.
This one of the greatest of epics can only be made justice on a big screen in a large cinema (by clanciai)
Nothing bad could be said about this film, but it has a few flaws. Henry Fonda is one of them, miscast and unconvincing although he acts well, he said so himself and was only in it for the money, Wilfred Lawson as the old Prince Bolkonsky is another, he was better as Alfred Dolittle and only good in comedies, but that is all. Of course it's impossible to squeeze a novel like "War and Peace" into a short film of 3,5 hours, but the effort was admirable enough, and the result is still definitely the cinematographically most impressive and beautiful screening of one of the greatest <more>
of novels. Every scene and picture is full of beauty, the photography is a marvel all through, which makes this film one of the most pictorially enjoyable ever made. To this comes Audrey Hepburn, Nino Rota's discreet but perfect music with some apt borrowings from Russian sources , Mel Ferrer's absolutely proper rendering of a tragic case of detached disillusion constantly getting worse, and above all the case of Napoleon and his grande armée of 450,000 men going down the drain. There was never a better Napoleon on screen. One of the strongest impressions in the film is how he handles his whip, restlessly moving it on his back until it suddenly stops as he is faced by the reality of the situation in Moscow. Another is the epic rendering of the retreat, especially the tremendous disaster at Beresina, a chapter which Tolstoy jumps in his novel, as the Russians used the desperate situation of the French at the river crossing to mercilessly attack them. The epic war scenes, some of the most impressing in film history, were so far the costliest ecer made. Because of its so many outstanding advantages, this is for me the best film version of "War and Peace", in spite of its many inevitable shortcomings.
This epic has the reputation for being a limp, lifeless, mechanical thing; a vulgar simplification of Tolstoy. The latter accusation is partly correct, and thank goodness for it. War and Peace, the novel, has many great things, but also many excrescences: it goes on way too long, padded out with tediously detailed philosophies and theories of war; it also studiously refuses loose ends.There are flaws. The script, though a model of clarity unlike most literary adaptations, which concentrate on all the big set-pieces, creating narrative confusion , but short on inspiration. There is a <more>
dispiriting, unimaginative reliance on voiceover, and unnecessary soliloquys. The whole thing also goes on way too long.Mel Ferrer is, without doubt, the worst actor in the world; he plays the dashing, tragic Prince Andrei with all the vigour of a mouldy plank. His part is pivotal, narratively, thematically and symbolically, so he features in a lot of scenes where his monotonous lack of expression makes the film stop dead. Henry Fonda, in many ways ideal as the Tolstoy altar-ego Pierre, who must move morally from observer to actor, is frequently defeated by the terrible dialogue, making this wonderful actor seem clumsy and amateurish. Herbert Lom, however, manages to suggest great humanity behind the hammy pomp of Napolean .I only mention these faults to show that the film's critics have their point. I also suggest that WAR AND PEACE is nearly a masterpiece for two reasons. King Vidor, whose work I'm largely and shamefully unfamiliar with, directs this film with awesome, authoritive lightness of touch. He pays respectful lip service to the big Tolstoyan themes, focusing particularly on families, the relations between parents and children, old traditional reactionary Russia, and the tentative, youthful impulse towards freedom.I say lip-service, because his main interest in the film lies elsewhere. It lies in the expression of the emotional life of his characters. For although the film is a massive historical epic, it works best as a domestic melodrama. Characters, who can't express themselves in this hierarchical society, are allowed a voice through the film's direction, which forsakes literal realism, to tell us what is going on in their heads and hearts . Exaggerated colour and carefully contrived composition offer us a second, more subtle and personal story, to the main, surface narrative. This might make WAR AND PEACE a more right-wing work, ignoring the processes of history and the plight of the serfs, in favour of sympathising with a caste of slave-owners, but Hollywood was never very good at socio-economic analyses.Vidor's other great theme seems to be nature, and man's relation to it. He has little interest in invoking a real nineteenth century Russia; his Moscow is as exquisitely artificial as Sternberg's THE SCARLET EMPRESS, and his use of architecture and space to both show the distances between people, and the the fathomless emptiness of the soul, is positively Antonionian. With the natural world, however, there is a real feeling, beyond mere backdrop scenery, that is unthinkable in any contemporary Hollywood film. Primarily a movie about people and history, it is eternal nature that watches on, the battles, deaths, retreats. Indeed, it is nature that saves the Russian people, in the face of massive military odds, and it is nature that frames the melancholy, yet hopeful, resolution. It's also interesting to ask why, at the heighth of the Cold War, Hollywood should decide to make a great Russian epic? To tastelessly evoke a 'glorious' pre-Soviet past? Or to enjoy the razing of Moscow to the ground? The second reason to love this film is, of course, the incomparable, beautiful, Audrey Hepburn. She is so right as Natasha when I read the book as a kid, I pictured Audrey all the way through, without even knowing she had played her on film , the saviour of the book, as well as the film. It is one of the great performances - its modernity and truth blows away the dusty period conventions indeed, at her first ball, she is as moving as a 50s teenager at her prom . Her intelligence, insight, passion and she is a lot more erotic in this film than her supporters ever give her credit for and grace are perfectly in tune with Vidor's conception, and her scenes have an extraordinary emotional force. She is the life of the film, and its moral centre in the absence of a convincing Pierre. The film plods to a slow death without her. The film essays three moral developments - Natasha's, Pierre's and Andrei's, but hers is the most moving and tragic. The change to sadness and understanding of the once gay and vivacious Natasha seems a terrible loss.
Ambitious, thoughtful, and massive in scale... (by Nazi_Fighter_David)
Although often naive, even crude, the films of King Vidor were frequently distinguished by their sheer energy and forceful visual style... As his career progressed, his films became increasingly grand in terms of narrative scope and visual bravura... Tolstoy and Vidor tell the epic story through a handful of major characters... As Napoleon Bonaparte prepares to invade Russia, Pierre Bezukhov Henry Fonda , an aristocrat so liberal in his views, visits his friend Count Rostov Barry Jones and his radiant, young daughter Natasha Audrey Hepburn . They all witness 'those handsome Russian <more>
men marching away to fight, to be killed.'When his father dies, Pierre falls under the spell of the attractive Helene Anita Ekberg and finds himself unable to resist her passionate response... He marries her even though everybody knows that she's fooling around on him with Dolokhov Helmut Dantine .His closest friend, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky Mel Ferrer , achieves success as a soldier under General Kutuzov Oscar Homolka but returns wounded, a condition made the worse by the death of his wife in childbirth...With his own marriage ended by the adultery of his woman, Pierre introduces the grieving Andrei to Natasha, and the pair fall in love... But before they can marry, Andrei goes to fight the invading French and the pacifistic Pierre goes along as an observer The motion picture deals with war and its effect on people... It contains many marvelous pictorial moments as the colorfully uniformed regiments marching through the excellent streets of Moscow; snowy landscapes; a magnificent Ballroom sequence; and most of all, Napoleon's forces at the epic battle of Borodino; the march on Moscow and the tragic retreat of Napoleon's army through the Russian winter... Most of the military side of the story takes place in the second half, and it seems slow to arrive, but the battle of Borodino is fairly well handled... It is focused through Pierre's eyes with long shots of the invading and retreating French troops...Audrey Hepburn whose boyish figure provided a refreshing antidote to the film, is lovely as Natasha... Her flaming innocence and blossoming sensuality set her sweet heart ablaze... This charming spirit, with so much enthusiasm and romanticism, is full of life and true love... Hepburn matures from an impulsive, kind-hearted teen-ager, to an understanding woman who uses her courage and impetuousness to love, to care, and to serve...Henry Fonda is pure, brave, and noble... He projects with sincerity the confusion of an honest man caught up in an angry twist of history... He witnesses the horrific events of war, experiencing days of misery as a prisoner of war... His remarkable adventures lead him to understand at least part of the mysteries of life, humanity, love and loyalty... Pierre is strikingly different from others, with a deep love and esteem for his country and his sweetheart...Mel Ferrer is the sensitive prince who doesn't come around until he meets the sweet Natasha... Andrei is intelligent but arrogant... He ignores the feelings of his wife and fails to carry out his responsibility as a husband...Vittorio Gassman is the legendary seducer, darkly handsome, sensuous, magnetic, who lives in a world of debauchery... Anatole is a man dangerous to love, impossible to resist...Herbert Lom is the 'greatest man of Europe' who sees his men walking hardly under fatiguing conditions through the snowy fields of Russia... Napoleon had a tough decision to make... Oskar Homolka is General Kutuzov who forms a reasoned judgment against an enemy who has a larger, more efficient force... It is unclear whether he did this out of weakness or whether it was part of a brilliant strategy with the purpose of drawing Napoleon's army way beyond their means of supply for the winter, which Bonaparte had not prepared for...Anita Ekberg is Helene, the charming and reckless libertine who goes to a world of cheats and insults her husband's ego making his life depressed and miserable... Helmut Dantine is Dolokhov, the officer, challenged for a duel, who puts on view the better side of his character much later... Tulio Carminati is Prince Vasili Kuragine, a man of the world who familiarizes himself with people who are influential and tries to obtain favor from them...Barry Jones is Count Rostov, a loving family man and an excellent friend... He is indulgent towards his family and provides them comforts and luxuries of life...Wilfrid Lawson is Prince Bolkonsky, a despot aristocrat who imposes his authority on his son without caring for his feelings..May Britt is Sonya, the tender young girl who is devoted to the Rostov family and loves Nicholas...John Mills is Platon, the cheerful Russian peasant whose philosophies comfort Pierre... Vidor's 'War and Peace' is massive in scale, faithful to the larger historical events... Its heart is really with the romantic side and so it's most successful as a period melodrama...
Vidor's unjustly over-looked version of Tolstoy's novel (by MOscarbradley)
Perhaps the best you can say for Vidor's long, 200 minutes , but surprisingly compact version of Tolstoy's novel is that it is no disgrace despite being 'internationalized' for mass consumption. It's got an Italian producer, was filmed in Italy, an American director and a large cast from all over the place, leading in some cases to some very unconvincing dubbing . But it's also largely intelligent, well enough acted, particularly by Audrey Hepburn who is an enchanting Natasha, and visually splendid. No less than eight writers worked on the script which fails <more>
conspicuously to translate Tolstoy's 'grand ideas' into anything other than Readers-Digest form but then even Bondarchuk's even longer Russian version didn't quite manage the leap from page to screen. You may be forgiven, then, for thinking you are watching nothing more than a grandiose soap-opera even if it's a cut above run-of-the-mill historical 'soap-operas'. But in an age when three-hour-plus epics were ten-a-penny it didn't catch on and come Oscar time it was largely over-looked. The even bigger but vastly inferior "Around the World in 80 Days" took Best Picture while "War and Peace" failed to snag a nomination in that category . But it is worth seeing if only for Hepburn's under-rated performance and for Henry Fonda, too old and miscast as Pierre, but bringing his liberal gravitas to the part, all the same.