Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sergei Bondarchuk: War and Peace - Война и мир (1967)

War and Peace (1965-1967)

Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk.
Starring Sergei Bondarchuk, Lyudmila Savelyeva, Vyacheslav Tikhonov.

1969 - Academy Award - Best Foreign Language Film
1969 - Golden Globe - Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film
1969 - National Board of Review Award - Best Foreign Language Film
1968 - New York Film Critics Circle Awards - Best Foreign Language Film

It would be tempting to compare this film adaptation to western epics like Gone With The Wind but that would do Bondarchuk a disservice on three grounds. Firstly, Gone With The Wind was a pulp novel unlike the literary sacred cow of Tolstoys. Secondly, although Selznicks production was epic, Bondarchuks is even more ambitious. Finally, Bondarchuk delivers a film that does justice to the source but is also supremely satisfying in its use of cinematic style and verve. Bondarchuk is not content to deliver a slavish love poem to Tolstoy, but he also delivers a film of tremendous technical ability and intelligence. The brio of some of War and Peace is breathtaking, in the battles of 1812 there is one sequence of tracking shots which goes almost without stop through about 15 different scenes, and in the ballroom sequences in the second episode the sheer size and sweep of the choreography matches the far different choreography of the huge battle scenes. Bondarchuks film is also at home in the more personal scenes, the second episode which concentrates on Natasha and her growing up is as transfixing and involving as the parts which deal with the cataclysm of war. The film making throughout is very skilled and unorthodox - Bondarchuk uses askew set-ups in emotionally darker moments, and is daring in his dream sequences. Mixage is regularly used to show images of peace and conflict in paradox, and the black humour of war gives way to its horror so that the viewer won't start to celebrate the magnificently orchestrated battles. ...

1 comment:

BarbS said...

A brilliant production! Is it possible that the first two minutes and 34 seconds of that segment are one, continuous take?