Directed by: Robert Dornhelm, Brendan Donnison | 408 minutes | drama, war, adventure, romance | Actors: Alessio Boni, Clémence Poésy, Brenda Blethyn, Alexander Beyer, Malcolm McDowell, Hannelore Elsner, Ana Caterina Morariu, Ken Duken, Toni Bertorelli, Benjamin Sadler, Harry Prinz, Elodie Frenck, Violante Placido, Vladimir Illyn, Dimitry Isayev, Igor Kostolevsky , Pilar Abella Scali Delpeyrat, Frederic Gorny
After film adaptations with Audrey Hepburn (1956), one version that took eight hours (1967) and one featuring Anthony Hopkins (1972), there is yet another version of writer Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”. The 2007 film adaptation does not contain any famous leaders, but this “War and Peace” may also be decent.
“War and Peace” tells of three different families in Russia and in particular the Rostova family. The miniseries starts happily; including the eighteenth birthday of Natasha Rostova (Clémence Poésy). She muses on who will be the man of her life and whether whoever is one of her guests who will come to the party. Natasha entrusts her daydreams to Sonia (Ana Caterina Morariu), her best friend. Sonia assures Natasha that the one will come naturally and she will recognize him when the moment comes. Sonia herself is completely devoted to Natasha’s brother Nikolai (Dmitri Isayev).
Unexpectedly, Pierre (Alexander Beyer), one of Natasha’s best friends, also attends her birthday party. After several years in Paris, Pierre is back in Russia for study to visit his sick father on the advice of Countess Marja (Brenda Blethyn). Pierre is pleasantly surprised that Prince Andrej Bolonsky (Alessio Boni) is among the other guests at Natasha’s party. Both men are close friends. Nastasha is touched in a different way by Andrej’s presence. The cozy and idyllic atmosphere evaporates when a letter arrives announcing the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte. Russia is preparing for war. Natasha’s life and that of her family and friends will be radically changed by the invasion of this wayward French monarch. More than they could ever have imagined …
“War and Peace” has been shot at various locations in Russia, Poland, Germany, France and Italy. The outdoor shots impress; you can see, among other things, the splendor of the characteristic Russian buildings. But the green lands are also beautiful to see, such as when Natasha rides through the woods on horseback and meets Pierre and Prince Andrej. Money apparently did not hinder this production; this can be seen in everything. For example, a lot of attention has been paid to the locations, costumes and the battles are also refined in the picture. The intro music gives a taste of what the miniseries is all about; the tune contains cheerful tones but also melancholic, sad-looking sounds. The miniseries, like the introduction soundtrack, contains many layers, sometimes it is all joy, other times the atmosphere has radically changed and there is unrest and uncertainty about the course of the lives of the characters.
The cast of “War and Peace” comes from different countries, but you hardly notice this. Clémence Poésy who plays Natasha is the one who impresses the most. How she can switch from cheerful to serious and “a heavy heart” is interesting to watch. The interplay between her and actor Alessio Boni produces beautiful moments. One of them is when Natasha and Andrej meet for the first time. Alexander Beyer is entertaining as Pierre in the scenes with Helene, the daughter of Prince Kuragin who is only too happy to live in wealth. His character finds it difficult to deal with the attention that this beautiful woman gives him and Beyer plays this amusingly. Actress Violante Placido amusingly portrays Hèlene Kuragin as a gorgeous woman with a hidden agenda. “War and Peace” is a mini-series that will leave a good impression on you. It is a pity that the end comes across as a bit run-down; as if the makers were struggling to find a suitable ending to close this epic tale of Tolstoy. This is probably one of the reasons why this film does not attract as much attention as its earlier predecessors in 1956 and 1968.