War & Peace (2016) BBC Adaptation Review
The only exposure to War & Peace I’ve had is a foreign adaptation with English dubs. When news broke that a British version under Andrew Davies and BBC’s deft hand was in the works, I was ecstatic. Seeing a version actually filmed in English seemed the icing on the cake in what would, ideally, be the perfect adaptation of a classic masterpiece.
1805 sees a fierce battle between the French and Russian continents. The battles the two countries engage in results in mass casualties, and droves of young men finding commissions. Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton) is one such man. Though he is titled and has a wife with child, Andrei is anything but satisfied in his life. The social nicety’s his name affords him stifle him as does the lack of affection he feels for his family, including his own wife. In war, he can at least achieve glory and hope to do something good with the remainder of his life. At least that’s what he envisioned…
The Rostov family also sends 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 collide.
TV REVIEW | War and Peace (2007)
Anytime a new period film production is in the works, there is always a risk of it trying to appeal to a secular audience. Such is the case with this magnificent production. Before going further, I’ll address the bad end of this series. I’m saddened that the talents of Andrew Davies (A&E’s Pride and Prejudice) felt the need to waste time on mature content. It’s a pity filmmakers feel for this to enjoy a successful run, the only way to achieve this was through visual implications of the stories moral ambiguity (to put it politely). On the flipside the version I watched (US via iTunes) is much cleaner than I’d read leading me to surmise the UK edition has more graphic content.
They say suffering are misfortunes. When our lives are knocked off course, we imagine everything in them is lost. But it is only the start of something new and good. As long as there is life, there is happiness. – War and Peace
Beyond this, this period drama is magnificent. Fortunately, flaws and all, there is enough episodes that deal in only the “pretty” or emotional pull this kind of story can elicit. As a costume drama, this dazzles brighter than stardust. Just as one would anticipate from a BBC production, every costume is gorgeous. To keep with tradition, there are some ensembles that are obviously modern. Glossy and sophisticated takes over the better part of this lending a kind of unexpected charm balancing out the modernization.
What surprises me most about the miniseries is the “disconnect” between the stories. The 2007 adaptation (I realize comparison isn’t needed), does a superior job of keeping things “small,” and connects everything. This series keeps the all of these characters apart. Or at least this is the primary series of events until the third and fourth episodes (which also enjoy a several year jump in the span of the two episodes). Speaking of episode four, it boasts one of the most beautiful dance scenes ever. Not only is the dreamy nature elegant, I also like that the scene shows the reaction of another character who, later on, factors greatly into the woman’s future.
In conclusion, Andrew Davies has another stellar piece of TV mastery on his hands. With its cast of British talent, this does convey a decidedly British atmosphere. Nonetheless I found myself not at all bothered by a Russian classic being less than its setting. Everyone in this cast is amazing; whether it’s James’ charm and Norton’s sophisticated cool or the gentlemanly Dano; plus Aisling Loftus, Tuppence Middleton, and Tom Burke also earn credits. Though dark as it edges towards its conclusion, with its vibrant use of color, wonderful costume design and talented cast, War & Peace is a masterpiece of a production that rewards a viewer’s patience with the prettiest of conclusions and is something I’ll enjoy revisiting time after time.
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Content: In the final five minutes of episode two, there’s a semi-graphic – clothed, sex scene. Multiple scenes of prostitutes either in bed with men or sitting on their laps during a night of drunken partying; incest suggestions form. A brother and sister are seen “fooling around” under the sheets; barely avoided nudity crops up 2-3 times. There are a 1 or 2 visual innuendos. A woman is seen lying in bed with a blood soaked white gown [episode eight – on iTunes] having committed suicide. Many bloody battles take place over the course of the eight installments; nearly all involve scenes of war violence. The episodes are rated TV14.