War and Peace 1966
Amazing! Colossal! ‘Gone With the Wind’ is a tempest in a teacup compared to this jaw-dropping adaptation of the Tolstoy classic: seven hours of artful splendor, passionate characters, map-altering politics and the biggest, most spectacular battle scenes ever filmed.

A gargantuan version of Tolstoy's national epic, approached as a priority as important as the Soviet space program, War and Peace is surely the biggest production ever put on film, with entire armies filling the screen and covering vast landscapes. The recreation of the Napoleonic era in St. Petersburg and Moscow is marvelous to behold. Director Sergei Bondarchuk makes the story work even better at the intimate level. The romantic adventures and heartbreaks of the central trio, Pierre, Natasha and Andrei lead to at least four or five devastatingly emotional highpoints.

In production for five years, War and Peace became four separate features which together run just over seven hours. Provided with unlimited resources which included access to numerous museums and the full cooperation of the Soviet military, Bondarchuk and Mosfilm were able to outdo anything that a big Hollywood studio could achieve. Watching War and Peace even today inspires a sense of awe; the opulent palaces and ballrooms and panoramic battle scenes involving 15,000 soldiers reenacting brutal historical events have a visceral power which even the most sophisticated CGI is still unable to match.

Director: Sergey Bondarchuk
Cast: Lyudmila Saveleva, Vyacheslav Tikhonov, Sergey Bondarchuk, Boris Zakhava, Anastasiya Vertinskaya, Oleg Tabakov, Vasiliy Lanovoy
Country: Soviet Union
Genre: Drama, History, Romance, War

Film 1: Andrei Bolkonsky: The sweeping story of Russian nobility during the Napoleonic wars begins in 1805. At the Moscow Rostovs, young Natasha (Lyudmila Saveleva) is a child dreaming of romantic affairs. Frequent guest Pierre Bezukhov (Sergei Bondarchuk, the director) takes a serious liking to her. Russia allies with Austria against Napoleon, so before he leaves to fight, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (Vyacheslav Tikhonov) parks his pregnant wife in the country with his father and sister. For Natasha’s brother Nikolai (Oleg Tabakov) it is a first battle. Back in Moscow, Pierre is easily pressured into marriage with the beautiful but decadent Helene (Irina Skobtseva), who is soon rumored to be taking lovers. Pierre challenges one of them to a duel, and has a crisis of conscience after wounding the man severely. Andrei returns to his country home just in time to see his wife die in childbirth. He determines that life is worthless. Then Spring comes and the world seems to be reborn.

Film 2: Natasha Rostova: At a glorious ball, Natasha is a wallflower until the meek Pierre encourages Andrei to dance with her, whereupon both fall gloriously in love. Andrei carefully proposes through her family, electing to wait a year before marriage. A year seems like forever to the still-immature Natasha. She goes on a wolf hunt and to the opera, where, with the connivance of Helene, young wastrel Kuragin (Boris Smirnov) catches her eye. Falling in love, and not realizing what will happen, Natasha agrees to elope with the scoundrel, a fate barely avoided by the intervention of her sister and Pierre. When Andrei breaks off their engagement, Natasha believes her life to be over at age seventeen.

Film 3: 1812 : Napoleon Bonaparte invades Russia once more, obliging Andrei to again take up his sword. His father remains in denial as the French advance steadily across Western Russia. Pierre takes leave of Natasha to go observe the big battle at Borodino. He speaks to Andrei the night before. The battle is an enormous clash of thousands of troops, and at the end the French prevail. Andrei is seriously wounded.

Film 4: Pierre Bezukhov: The main Russian Field Marshall realizes he can’t stop the French, and so elects to abandon Moscow without a fight, burning all useful resources on the way. Millions become refugees, and caravans of rich Muscovites flee Eastward. Pierre disguises himself as a common citizen with the vain idea of assassinating Napoleon Bonaparte, but instead makes friends with a French officer who moves into his apartment. The Russians refuse to parlay with Napoleon, and leave him in a dead city with the poor. His soldiers loot tons of booty they can’t possibly carry home. Pierre is arrested as an arsonist but is spared the death penalty. He witnesses a mass execution and is sent on a march by the French. On the refugee trail to the East, the Rostovs take in the mortally wounded Andrei, and he and Natasha spend time together declaring their love. When Napoleon quits the city, the Russian winter closes in to decimate his army as they withdraw. Pierre and Natasha are reunited.

War and Peace (1966) Criterion Collection
2xBD50, 3xDVD9 | 1080p AVC, NTSC | 430 mins | 91.3 Gb + 22.4 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Russian
Subtitles: English


Blu-Ray ONE
*The Film - Part 1: "Andrei Bolkonsky" (147:07)
*The Film - Part 2: "Natasha Rostova" (98:02)
-- "Woina I Mir" - 1966 making-of documentary (48:36)

Blu-Ray TWO
*The Film - Part 3: "The Year 1812" (81:41)
*The Film - Part 4: "Pierre Bezukhov" (96:38)
-- "Making War and Peace" 1969 making-of documentary (30:52)
-- Interview with Fedor Bondarchuk (6:41)
-- Interview with Anatoly Pertitsky (14:20)
-- "Les Sovietiques" television program from 1967 on actor Ludmila Savelyeva, featuring Sergei Bondarchuk (27:19)
-- "Cold War Classic" program with historian Denise J. Youngblood detailing the cultural and historical contexts for the film (46:44)
-- Janus Films Re-release Trailer (1:40)

War and Peace (1966) RUSCICO
5xDVD9 | PAL 16:9 | 403 mins | 32.9 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Russian, English, Francais
Subtitles: Russian, English, Francais, Japanese, Hebrew, Svenska, Chinese, Nederlands, Portugues, Deutsch, Espanol, Italiano, Arabic, Greek


* The Film - Parts 1 (140 mins)
-- Materials on Alexander I, 19th-century manor houses
-- Cast & crew photos and filmographies

* The Film - Part 2 (93 mins)
-- Sketches of the sets
-- Materials on national-lideration
-- Cast & crew photos and filmographies

* The Film - Part 3 (78 mins)
-- Sketches of the sets
-- Materials on amusements and celebrations in 19th century Russian countryside, M.I. Kutuzov, Russian classicism
-- Cast & crew photos and filmographies

* The Film - Part 4 (92 mins)
-- Sketches of the sets
-- Materials on Empire style
-- Cast & crew photos and filmographies

-- Interviews with Filmmakers:
-Composer Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov (33:21)
-Co-cinematographer Anatoly Petritsky (30:03)
-Actress Irina Skobtseva (4:51)
-Actor Vasili Lanovoy (9:04)
-- Interview with Karen Shakhnazarov (18:53)
-- "Sergei Bondarchuk" archives:
-"Sergei Bondarchuk" featurette (14:20)
-"Making the Film" featurette (14:32)
-"Leo Tolstoy" featurette (6:24)
-"Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace" featurette (8:15)
-"Leo Tolostoy – Chronicle" featurette (7:00)
-- Photo Album