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170 of 172 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bondarchuk's masterpiece still has the power to enthrall
I saw this film in 1969 on general release when I was a young University student. I loved it then for the way it captured the spirit of Tolstoy's novel. I have always wanted an opportunity to see it again. I was astounded when a chance Amazon search revealed the film had been restored and was being re-released in a Collector's Edition the following week. After 38...
Published on 19 Nov 2006 by Lynette Fox

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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tantalising insight into the great book
Wildly ambitious, this 6 1/2 hour film can be frustrating for anyone who's read the book and knows how much has, inevitably, been left out. But I watched it with my partner and it interested him enough to motivate him to read the book. So a good introduction.
Filming such a mammoth tome, one would have to make a decision as to whether you lose the vast scope of the...
Published on 16 Aug 2004 by victoria creasy


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170 of 172 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bondarchuk's masterpiece still has the power to enthrall, 19 Nov 2006
By 
Lynette Fox (Bedfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War And Peace [DVD] (DVD)
I saw this film in 1969 on general release when I was a young University student. I loved it then for the way it captured the spirit of Tolstoy's novel. I have always wanted an opportunity to see it again. I was astounded when a chance Amazon search revealed the film had been restored and was being re-released in a Collector's Edition the following week. After 38 years, the make up and hair firmly place it as 1960s vintage but that aside the scale and authenticity of the scenes, the attention to detail remain unsurpassed and it does not disappoint. The casting of Natasha, and Bondarchuk himself as Bezukhov are sublime. Natasha's first Ball, the Battle of Borodino and the Moscow Fire are just a few of many wonderful scenes. The courage and confidence of the Director to organise scenes on this scale is breathtaking.

The Collector's Edition is in Russian with English subtitles and some optional dubbing in English. I found the American accents of the dubbing irritating and next time will watch it with subtitles only - the richness of the Russian language is far kinder to the ear. I have wondered whether the standard edition released now in English has better dubbing. The sound has been remastered but on occasion the quality of sound falters. One of the joys of the Collector's Edition is a large amount of wonderful archive footage about how the film was made, Tolstoy, and interviews with people who made the film. These contribute a great deal to understanding the film's place in Film History. This edition will make a great present for any lover of films of the great classics of literature, for unreformed romantics like myself or anyone with an interest in Film History. I shall always treasure my copy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent War and Peace epic, 22 Mar 2010
By 
E.P. Count Ivan Ivanovich (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: War And Peace [DVD] (DVD)
In my opinion dramatisations ought, if possible, to be watched in the author's mother tongue. The wonderful thing about Amazon is it offers this opportunity. As a Tolstoy fan it was so exciting to come across this DVD of a Russian film adaptation.

The film is mezmorising, lavish, elegant, magnificenty acted and of prime importance, faithful to the novel...watching is akin to reading the tome page by page. Watching Pierre, Natalya, Mary, Elizabeth, Boris, Sonya et al. come to life on the screen and the whole vista of the lost world of aristocratic Imperial Russia - the private palaces, the balls, the White Nights over the Neva as the last candles dim in the windows of the Winter Palace, the grandeur and dignity of the Church headed by an Orthodox Tsar, emblazoned landaux gracefully driving on the Boulevards and 'Prospyekti' of 'MOCKBA' and Petersburg, pastel coloured country houses in the central steppes, romantic walks in dappled sunshine beneath the silver birches - gives a tingle down your spine, especially, for Russophones, given that the drama is played out for us in the languid, poetc tones of the beautiful Russian tongue.

This ephemeral world is sharply contrasted against the background of Napoleon's invasion of the Russian Motherland - the horror, the necessity and conversely the futility, the suffering, anguish , heartache - all redolant of our own age..... - are played to Tolstoy's score, perfectly.

I cannot rate this more highly - whether you be a Tolstoyan, a student of Russian, a sociologist, historian or just a fan of costume dramas - then this is for you - a melange of Jane Austen, Mrs.Gaskell, Mesdames Bronte, Ibsen and Chekhov!

No, quite simply - LeO Tolstoy at his bardic best in what has to be the quintessential screen adaptation of 'War and Peace'.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 16 Mar 2004
By 
This Russian version of Tolstoys War and peace is more faithful to the novel than the 1956 Hollywood version. More than this it is also the most expensive movie ever made and every rubel shows on screen! With more than 10 000 extras and 300 speaking parts director Sergei Bondarchuk recreates every aspect of Tolstoys classic. Most noticeable are the scenes of Natashas first ball, the battle of Borodino and the burning of Moscow. Bondarchuk rendition is on such a grand scale that you actually believe that the scenes takes place before your eyes in reality. The photography is stunning -we get to follow the action through the camera which moves is such ways that you feel as you are part of the whole thing. Bondarchuks experimenting is evident throughout the picture and is by most parts a success. Some subliminal messages are distracting, but the cutting and movements of the camera is mostly fascinating. Bondarchuks influence from Abel Gance's fantastic silent "Napoléon" (1927) is evident.
War and peace is by far the greatest movie ever made, it has all the elements of a great story and is staged in such a grand scale that you are swept away. The acting are superb, ecpecially the part of Natasha Rostova and Pierre bezukhov. The latter played by Bondarchuk himself. The battlescenes are no less than magnificent, the closest any movie comes near War and Peace in this respect is "Saving private Ryan"- so you know what to expect.
I cannot stress hard enough how great this movie is, all I can say is that this is the greatest movie I have ever seen.
RUSCICO has released War and peace (distributed by Image) as a five disc box-set. The complete version is at last avaliable! Some information claims that there is another original version that is longer than this RUSCICO release. That is probably not true- and if so long lost. This release is the best there is and complete. The running time is a staggering 403 minutes! But I promise you -you won't fall asleep! The boxart is great and the digipack looks and works fine. There is no booklet but instead a fifth bonus disc with, among other things, a making of sequence from the 60:s. The picture quality is not the greatest. This is due to the loss of the original negatives. This taken into account the picture is, by all means not great, but more than fair. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The full picture is presented in other words. The original audio is bumped to a "million dollar sounding" 5.1. This is the best 5.1 I have heard on such an old recording. It really sounds great. You also have other sound options than the original (but 5.1) russian but the original is the one to choose. You have almost every european language represented as subtitles! I myself saw this with swedish subs and they worked very fine!
Conclusion: War and peace is the greatest movie ever made. It is presented in a great DVD-box. Why not buy it?
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WAR AND PEACE, 25 Nov 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: War And Peace [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This is perfection in the world of cinema, Hollywood tried
to do a remake of it years ago but all they made of it was a
glorious load of not worth passing comment on, it will do for
the north american cinema goers. Thank-you Mr Bondarchuk for
making this sumptious feast for the eye. The costumes are
superb, the battle scenes are stunning, the cinematography is
breathtaking, everything about this wonderful film cannot be
put onto paper you have to see it to see how good the film
maker's art can and should be.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tantalising insight into the great book, 16 Aug 2004
By 
victoria creasy (Belfast, Co Antrim United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Wildly ambitious, this 6 1/2 hour film can be frustrating for anyone who's read the book and knows how much has, inevitably, been left out. But I watched it with my partner and it interested him enough to motivate him to read the book. So a good introduction.
Filming such a mammoth tome, one would have to make a decision as to whether you lose the vast scope of the original, or the detail. This film has managed to keep the sense of vastness very well and we were kept enthralled throughout. The battle scenes are especially impressive. Unfortunately this means much of the detail has been lost, which makes the human storylines in it less appealing and not always easy to understand.
Despite the gaps, what is there is good: it is well paced and superbly acted and the 6 1/2 hours flew by in no time.
My only gripe is about the dubbing; the film is half dubbed and half subtitled. The dubbing isn't entirely convincing, and the film is at its best when you can listen to the original cast speaking in Russian, and watch the subtitles.
NB The DVDs arrived in about 5 days, much quicker than anticipated. And they're beautifully boxed!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Epic Visual Feast, 11 April 2013
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War and Peace [DVD] (DVD)
This is a review of Sergei Bondarchuk's 1960s interpretation of Tolstoy's `War & Peace', arguably the greatest novel ever written. The film, in four parts, is spread over the first four discs, whilst the final disc contains extras.

I have the version starring Henry Fonda, as well as the BBC series starring Anthony Hopkins, but have yet to watch them. Consequently I cannot comment on whether these are better than Bondarchuk's Soviet version. Having said that, there is no overt class agenda put forward in this film, unless it is the failure to include any reference to Bezukhov's allegiance to freemasonry. The film, then, is true to the spirit of Tolstoy, and since the great writer is so revered in Russia, perhaps it could not be otherwise. If there is one clear reference to the 1960s, it is with some of the hair styles.

Bondarchuk's four parts are based around specific characters or events: thus, 1. Andrei Bolkonsky (which takes us to about halfway through Book Two of the novel); 2. Natasha Rostova (from the meeting between the emperors at Tilsit, from whence we speed forward two years to Natasha's first grand ball, and ends with the fallout following Anatole and Natasha's attempted elopement); 3. 1812 (here the Battle of Borodino takes centre stage); and 4. Pierre Bezukhov (from the evacuation of Moscow onwards).

Even at over six hours long, the film leaves much out. For example, from Book One we do not see Nicholas's baptism of fire at the Enns Bridge, nor do we witness Prince Vasili's son Anatole being turned down by Princess Mary, daughter of Prince Bolkonsky. This lack of a full appreciation of each of the secondary characters means that later, when Anatole returns to elope with Natasha, those who do not know the novel are not fully aware that Anatole is Pierre's brother-in-law. Another example is young Petya in the final part: because we have not come to know him very well in the film, his tragic death means we feel little.

Part of the novel's greatness is that it is as much about thoughts and motivations as it is about actions and events. Tolstoy's precise and deeply insightful words about a character's psychology and intentions, the inner turmoils, the confusions and emptiness within are difficult to portray in film. Characters are thus not really given enough time to develop in this medium, or at least within the time-scales that a movie encompasses. I can thus imagine that the film might appear to disjointed to someone who had not read the book. What builds up over several pages is here over in ten seconds.

The film is certainly on an epic scale and is always a visual feast. I was going to write that such a film could not be done convincingly today, but CGI can now create visually battles on large enough scales. But we have in Bondarchuk's creation not only immense numbers of soldiers (supplied by the Red Army), but grand balls, grand houses, wide vistas, antique theatres, the destruction of towns, and the panic of whole populations.

I guess the film is therefore best seen on the biggest screen available. In the battle scenes Bondarchuk portrays the confusion and brutality of war, and employs aerial shots of infantry clashing, artillery shooting, and cavalry charging that he would later use in his film `Waterloo'. Indeed, Bondarchuk opens his film from the very start with a high aerial shot travelling over a broad landscape below that is often obscured by clouds that act as if they are smoke rising from a huge battle taking place below.

Bondarchuk appears to have specifically used pastel colours: even blue-skies have an autumnal feel to them. There is often a dream-like atmosphere with some 1960s psychedelic touches to express the more mystical philosophies of Tolstoy. Bondarchuk, through his DoP Anatoly Petritsky, employs quite innovative camerawork such as split-screen filming, the use of various filters, and playing with the focus. An occasional sound of dripping water foretells the later films of Tarkovsky, and the music of Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov is worthy of the epic nature of the film throughout.

The visual quality of the film is fine, but sometimes it is in clear need of (further?) restoration. All the same, it is watchable. There are, however, problems with the dialogue when using the Dolby 2.1 option: the voices are a little out-of-synch with the lip movements. Even though this is perhaps only a second out, it was enough to force me to return to the normal sound. In addition, some of the subtitling is a little confusing, especially in scenes where more than two people are speaking.

The extras include filmographies and a whole host of notes on Russia and its political and social life in the times of Napoleon and of Tolstoy. The set sketches provided are beautiful works of art in themselves. I felt like cutting them out of the TV screen and framing them. On the final disc there is a fifteen-minute but undated appreciation of Bondarchuk, as well as a good fifteen minutes of behind-the-scenes shooting.

The fifth disc also has the following interviews (all in Russian with subtitles): 1. Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov (composer, 33 mins) in which he talks about his film music in general, i.e. not just `War & Peace'; 2. Irina Skobtseva (actress, 5 mins); 3. Anatoly Petritsky (DOP, 30 mins), talking of the film's restoration as well as its original shooting; 4. Vassily Lanovoy (actor, 9 mins); and 5. Karen Shakhnararov (of Mosfilm, 20 mins), about the reason for the restoration.

This last disc of extras lasts for well over two hours, but twice during the interviews I thought I saw shots that did not appear on the DVD I had just seen, so I am not entirely sure that we have the complete film in this version.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the greatest film of all time, 9 Mar 2007
By 
T. Jarvis - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War And Peace [DVD] (DVD)
In 1965 Sergei Bondachucks directed one of the greatest novles of all time

Leo Tolstoys "War and Peace" and over 40 years later it is on DVD in its original widescreen and uncut lasting 403 minutes this is truely a masterpiece of film Maybe the greatest film of all time this dvd has its original russian laungage in 5.1 surround sound and has all so been dubbed into english and french both in 5.1 surround sound a few things about that even when its in the english dub at times they still speak in russian in one seen Prince Andrie is talking to Pierre and a question is asked in russian and the answer is given in english didnt quite understand why it did that sometimes but aslong as you have the subtitles up it will be ok.

This has briliant cinematograpy in this movie and an epic battle between the russians and the french one of the reasons this has taken so long to come on region 2 dvd is because the BBFC didnt like the treatment of horses in this film.

I have read the book of war an peace and this is probabaly the best version of the movie addapted from the book.

This is a movie for the ages if your a fan of russian cinema or war films or drama this is a movie for you.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolstoy was never this exciting -- and neither was Hollywood, 11 Dec 2000
By 
This review is from: War And Peace [VHS] (VHS Tape)
In a magnificent filming that not even the flamboyant Hollywood could surpass, the arguably best War and Peace adaptation rips through the screen. The length of it allows for full representation of the intricate story and lots of characters, which are faultlessly, remarkably portrayed.
Even those who don't like Tolstoy (like myself) will be mesmerized by this masterpiece. The Russian Empire at its most glorious opulence, the Russian acting at its most brilliant, and overwhelming sets will make it anyone's favorite.
Watch it and see the reason for Russia's cinematic pride.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad dubbing, 10 Jan 2008
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: War And Peace [1968] [DVD] (DVD)
I only watched part of this set of DVDs and found the picture quality very gloomy. However, the main reason I didn't continue was the uninspiring quality of the dubbing. I generally prefer to hear a film in the original language and read sub-titles. The dubbing of this film sounded like people reading a script. I've noticed that there is another set of DVDs that have sub-titles which I think would be better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Battles, 27 Jan 2010
By 
N. Cooper "ethereal" (Western Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War And Peace [DVD] (DVD)
Made in the 1960s, this has spectacular battles and set pieces. The production values and editing are great and the perfomances are very moving. The director Sergei Boudarchuk also appears as a very sympathetic Pierre. It gives a great insight and feel for 19th century European Russia. The story and action may unfold too slowly for today's younger audiences but this is classic cinema.
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Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace 5 DVD Set [NTSC, English subtitles]
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