(War and Peace)
Director: Sergei Bondarchuk
Production: Mosfilm; Sovcolor, 35mm, scope; running time: originally 373 minutes (some sources list 507 minutes), and released in two parts, later cut to 170 minutes. Released 1967. Cost: rumored to have been anywhere between 40 and 100 million dollars.
Screenplay: Sergei Bondarchuk and Vasily Solovyov; photography: Anatoly Petritsky, Dmitri Korzhikin and A. Zenyan; production designer: Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Myasnikov; music: Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov.
Cast: Ludmilla Savelyeva ( Natasha ); Sergei Bondarchuk ( Pierre ); Vyacheslav Tikhonov ( Andrei ); Anastasia Vertinskaya ( Princess Liza ); Vasily Lanovoi ( Kuragin ); Irina Skobotseva ( Hélène ); Boris Zakhava ( Kutuzov ); Vladislav Strzhelchik ( Napoleon ).
Academy award for Best Foreign Film, 1968; New York Film Critics Award,
Best Foreign Film, 1968.
Khaniutin, Iurii Mironovich, Sergei Bondarchuk , Moscow, 1962.
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Miller, Edwin, "A Budding Ballet Dancer Becomes the Greatest Heroine of All Russia," in Seventeen , August 1968.
"Director of the Year," in International Film Guide , London, 1969.
Napier, Alan, "Tolstoy Betrayed," in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Spring 1969.
Zolutossky, Igor, "War and Peace: A Soviet View," in London Magazine , March 1969.
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Lind, John, "The Road to Waterloo ," in Focus on Film (London), September-October 1970.
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Tschertok, S., in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), April 1975.
Gerasimov, S., "Soviet Cinema: Films, Personalities, Problems," in Soviet Film (Moscow), no. 271, 1979.
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* * *
Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace , budgeted at over $100 million, is easily the definitive version of Tolstoy's masterpiece. In War and Peace , the world's greatest historical novel, Tolstoy created a panorama of vivid characters who are so realistic they breathe life before the reader's eyes. "We strove," Bondarchuk explained, "with the aid of modern cinematic means, to reproduce Tolstoy's thoughts, emotions, philosophy, and ideals." As Penelope Gilliatt wrote in the New Yorker , "Not the smallest blunder of style or proportion was made . . . . "
Bondarchuk was not the first filmmaker to attempt to translate Tolstoy's narrative to the screen. In 1915, Vladimir Gardin and Yakov Protazanov directed a ten-reel War and Peace ; 41 years later King Vidor made a static, overly simplified Italian-American version with Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, and Mel Ferrer. Bondarchuk's film is easily the most ambitious. It is uncannily faithful to Tolstoy's characterizations, and the most spectacular feature ever made in Russia—perhaps also the most successful at the box office. The filmmaker labored on the project for over half a decade. His original cut, released in Russia in four parts, features battle scenes as grand as any ever put on the screen. Cannons were reproduced exactly as they were at the time of the story; paintings and props were borrowed from museums; 158 separate scenes were filmed, utilizing a similar number of locations all over the USSR. There were 272 sets, 6,000 military costumes, 2,000 civilian costumes, 30 starring roles, and 120,000 soldier-extras. Not unexpectedly, the most memorable sequences are the spectacles: the ball at which Natasha and Andrei are introduced; the burning of Moscow; and specifically, the Battle of Borodino. Ballerina Ludmila Savelyeva is ravishing as Natasha; Bondarchuk himself appears as Pierre.
An hour was cut for the American print, which runs 373 minutes. It was also dubbed (unnecessarily) and released in two parts—one would be presented in the afternoon, the other in the evening. Later, it was further cut to 170 minutes. Still War and Peace is enormous in scope. Bondarchuk, a postwar Russian actor whose career behind the camera began during the late 1950s, specialized in epic productions. Waterloo , the follow-up to War and Peace , could almost be considered a sequel.