‘WAR & PEACE’ (2007)

October 10, 2014 7 Comments

Thanks to a friend, I had the opportunity to see this before it appears in the states. With my recent renewed aspiration to organize, I found them, and finally pop them into my laptop. Whether it’s a good or bad result was about to be determined.

War & Peace (2007) TV Miniseries Review

Young and happy, Natasha Rostova (Clémence Poésy) dreams of falling in love and on the night of her parents – Count Rostov (Andrea Giordana) and Countess Rostova (Hannelore Elsner), latest soiree, she does. The moment she sees Prince Andrej Bolkonsky (Alessio Boni), Natasha knows: he’s the one. Only her dream cannot be realized as he’s married. With exception to one chance encounter, Natasha has no contact with him and is instead occupied with society at her family’s town house, and her friendship with Pierre Bezukhov (Alexander Beyer), who is coincidently fast friends with Prince Andrej.

‘WAR & PEACE’ (2007). Reviewing the original Russian language adaptation with English dubbing. All text is © Rissi JC and RissiWrites.com

Following the death of his wife in childbirth, time passing begins to heal Andrej’s guilty heart, and he and Natasha become engaged only before they can marry, his father (Malcolm McDowell) asks they wait a year. Not long after his return from the battlefield, he sends Andrej off on a yearlong appointment in the Russian military; leaving his son in the care of his long-suffering sister
Marja (Valentina Cervi), Andrej leaves behind all that represents his past and future.   

Pierre is not without his own complications. The once illegitimate son of a wealthy man, before his father’s death he made Pierre his sole heir which suddenly puts him in a powerful position among the aristocracy and he becomes the pawn of the beautiful Helene (Violante Placido), who marries him solely for the status. Then the Rostov family encounters financial woes and Natasha, despite her promise to Andrej catches the eye of a scoundrel military man – one whose nefarious plans are anything but honorable.  

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‘WAR & PEACE’ (2007). Reviewing the original Russian language adaptation with English dubbing. All text is © Rissi JC and RissiWrites.com

I just have to say right up front before getting into my nitpick-y what-I-don’t-like or do topics, I adore this miniseries. The beginning in particular is charming. This, I think, is the reason I have such a positive reaction early on; I expect something much more dreary and unpleasant because of its classic novel privileges. I don’t know how the book shakes out, though my idea of it isn’t a good one and I do think I can safely say, I won’t ever read the tome this is based on. What can I say? I’m not that ambitious when it comes to my reading habits. This miniseries however is a much different story.  

Going in, I expect moments of happiness though to be honest being bored throughout the majority is in the back of my mind. Broken into four 90-some minute parts (or that’s how I saw it), the first part is nothing if not delightful before the darker sorrows creep in leaving us with sprinkles of joy. The final part is essentially all about the battlefield; both by what it takes from the characters, who it takes and how it changes them. I enjoy the characters and within this, experience a “different” kind of family than the normal costume drama portrays. Usually I’m so used to the “stiff upper lip” in costume dramas, meeting a family who cares about their children’s happiness, throwing properness to the wind in their quest to enjoy life is lovely.

While watching this that’s something that constantly surprises me; the lack of being “proper” (women being in a man’s room to bid them good-bye or unpolished appearances). Whether this is merely the vision filmmakers want and isn’t accurate or because I’m most used to England-set costume dramas, I don’t know. Either way, this creates warm and quirky scenes that are inviting and easy to love.  

All of this is behind the beautiful characters. There are some who grow up throughout the series, which is a pleasant transformation. Then there are those that do something we never expect. There isn’t always the best explanations as to the who’s who or wise choices made (I want to shake Natasha in particular – silly girl!) and sadly some of the characters don’t make it to the credit’s end. Gosh darn it, guys I’m attached to some of them. *sniff*

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All that to say, the ending is happy in a bittersweet kind of way; it’s almost Austen-esque in its setting and narration. And I probably should explain myself here. What I mean by bittersweet is that the ending sets up from the beginning. By focusing so narrowly on one way to conclude, when that’s no longer possible, it kind of shatters a happy ending. Looking back, all ends as it’s “meant to be,” but just not the same. The production is lavish and beautiful (can we say, gorgeous ballroom scene!?), though there’s times when it’s easily apparent a green screen or the like is employed. Technical details also reveal Russian is the language before English dubbing. Sometimes this is no issue and I doubt this didn’t film in English to begin with. Other times it’s more obvious though never to the point of distraction. 

‘WAR & PEACE’ (2007). Reviewing the original Russian language adaptation with English dubbing. All text is © Rissi JC and RissiWrites.com

In the end, this version is, for lack of a better word beautiful. I enjoy every moment and though the final part does get a little war and political heavy (in comparison), it’s still an enchanting view. The series end offers the chance for redemption and the freedom of forgiveness many characters need. With news of a new BBC adaptation, I’m now more curious to see what will come of that, because as an adaptation, I’m a fan of something I didn’t anticipate. Bravo War and Peace

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You can find War & Peace (2007) digitally on Amazon Video

Content: there are numerous battle scenes that see men shot, stabbed or blown up by canons [nothing terribly graphic]. We see men die after arrival in medical tents. A women cheats on her husband and later is seen in bed with a man [he is half
dressed, she underneath the covers]; a woman later dies from a disease as a result of her affair. There is a brief scene of nudity in the opening credits. There is some other crude sexual remarks; an unmarried woman falls pregnant and a married man attempts to seduce a young girl, and then leave her. Keep in mind, with all of the editions [regions 1, 2, etc.] of this on DVD, they all may contain different content. This would be a solid PG13.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

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  • Bekah M. October 11, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    "Austen-esque?" Oh yes! I loved reading every word of this review. I am such a fan of BBC mini-series and will definitely be checking out this one. I can't believe I haven't heard of it until now! Thanks so much for sharing–I can't wait to tell my sisters about this one. :)

    • Rissi October 13, 2014 at 8:24 PM

      The ending is VERY Austen-like, Bekah. It's staging and the voiceover (mainly it reminds me of the style in the Gwyneth Paltrow version). Hope you like this if/when you check it out – there are some things I didn't love (naturally), but overall, I adored it. :)

  • Birdie October 16, 2014 at 9:01 PM

    This one has been on my 'should-really-watch-someday' list for years. But I keep postponing because of the reputation of Russian classics as depressing. But your review sounds really positive and I know you're not a fan of dreary and depressing tv either.

    • Rissi October 17, 2014 at 6:46 PM

      It's really good, Birdie – since it is dubbed in English sometimes the sync up is a little off, but it was much better (production wise) than I expected. I don't blame you being leery because of the depressing nature – the last part in particular is a bit sad, but good news – it ends well! :)

      …and yes! You know my miniseries tastes well; I'm not a fan of depressing TV at all. :)

  • Kara November 12, 2014 at 12:52 AM

    Well! You made me much more interested in this than I had every previously been, so well done. :) Not sure if I'll get the chance to watch it, but if I do, I know I'll snatch it up and plan to be whisked away. (At least I hope so. ;) It's nice to know it's not completely depressing because that's exactly how I've always imagined it to be. Shows what I know.

    • Rissi November 12, 2014 at 3:39 AM

      This one greatly surprised me, Kara though I do believe it's safe to say I'll NEVER read this book. It wound up being really sweet despite the fact that episode three was quite "war heavy." Beyond that, I thought it was a worthwhile watch. Most of all, I'm eager to see what comes of the upcoming adaptation since it'll be filmed in English and the cast was looking good. If you see this, I hope you enjoy it. :)

  • […] The Rostov family is also sending a son off to war, but not before their friend (and recent heir to his father’s title and fortune), Pierre Bezukhov (Paul Dano) visits the family. A family that includes the happily-married parents Count and Countess Rostov (Adrian Edmondson, Greta Sacchi) of three children; their son Nikolai (Jack Lowden) is eager to join his country’s fight; and their daughter, Natasha (Lily James) is a dreamer who fantasizes about love and the fairy tale of meeting her true love. As the lives of these prominent Russian families intertwine in various directions, some will find their futures are about to come crashing together.   REVIEW | War and Peace (2007) […]

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