(Review originally written at 29 December 2007)

This is one real grand old fashioned epic movie, in basically every way imaginable. But how many people have actually ever heard or watched this movie? Surprisingly not nearly as much as it's deserving. It of course also has to do with the fact that this movie was made at the time of the cold war, so this movie wasn't largely viewed or available in the West. And of course its extreme long running time is also an element that prevents lots of people from watching this.

Yes, you can view the movie in parts, since each part of the movie forms a new different 'chapter' (Chapter I: Andrey Bolkonskiy, chapter II: Natasha Rostova, chapter III: 1812 god, chapter IV: Pierre Bezukhov) of the story, focusing on another character, in either war or peace but its of course best and most effective to watch this movie as one whole. After all the chapters and characters are of course all connected. There are a couple of characters that appear- and connect the 4 stories. The chapter themselves also aren't at all times chronological with each other and its rather 4 different tellings and different point-of-views, each of them providing more in depth of the story and characters. Each chapter has of course its own qualities and some are more appealing than others for certain people. And even though the movie its running time is over 7 hours, it still is a movie that moves along just fine. Despite not having the most fast pace, it never drags.

It's especially the contrast between the war and peace situations that makes the movie so epic and powerful in what it tries to achieve. Each chapter focuses on a different either war or peace situation. I think Tolstoy himself would had been pleased with this adaption of his novel.

It's probably one of the, if not the, most expensive movie ever made but that's hard to really say because of the inflation. So it can't be really said how much this movie cost to make with today's money. The movie not in the least also was so expensive because it took years to make it. It was good to see that they didn't just only put all in the money in the battle sequences of the movie but also obviously in the overall look of the movie. The movie features some amazing large detailed sets and good, detailed, authentic looking costumes. But it of course are still the battle sequences that will impress the most. It will blow your mind. Ten-thousands of extra's were used during the big battle sequences. I keep saying this but it's always more impressive to see an extreme number of real humans charging than it is to watch a grand CGI-battle, no matter how realistic and impressive it all looks.

What I also liked during the battles was that it in parts used the same style as '20's and '30's Russian genre movies, in its camera-work and style of editing mostly. No doubt an homage to the good old golden days of Russian cinema. But the movie overall also uses a great and unique unusual style at times. It uses lots of tricks in parts, such as split-screens and extreme fast editing, to often give the movie an unique and sort of surreal feeling. The movie would often also feature some extreme long shots, in which the camera moves all the way through the ballrooms or other rooms in the palaces or over the battlefield.

The acting in the movie is also surprisingly great, as far as I'm able to judge that. I mean it's also hard to really judge the acting quality in a movie in a language that you don't speak or understand for yourself. Seemed to me that most of the actors in this movie are normally stage actors, which was a good and suiting acting style for this, of course sort of overblown, movie. The movie of course features a whole lot of characters but they all get the right required treatment and are deepened out. The long running time of course allowed this all to be possible. No way this movie would had worked out as good as it was just 'merely' a 3 hour epic.

I think the fact that the movie won an Oscar for best foreign film, despite of the cold war at the time, shows how brilliant the movie is.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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