Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace


"You are never, ever, going to see anything to equal it … as spectacular as a movie can possibly be." --Roger Ebert

I watched the five part Soviet production of War and Peace. I don't know how many hours it was. The budget was around $100 million in 1966 which translates to about $800 million today, and you can see every ruble on the screen. A huge battle scene with almost as many soldiers as the real thing, filmed on the actual battlefield.

Someone on wikipedia disputed the claim that it cost so much and cited a much lower figure. If that's true, it's even more amazing.

During the opening credits, the camera looks down on the Russian landscape from a plane passing through the clouds. Such a strange choice in a movie set in the very early 1800s.

Director Sergei Bodarchuk also plays Pierre. He had a couple of heart attacks during production, and I can see why. This was a big, big movie.

Russians are smarter than Americans. They read more books. I have a friend in Russia who I know over the internet. She re-reads War and Peace now and then and she asked me to send her a copy to read in English. It's a book very few Americans would try to tackle.

In the bonus material for the DVD, they mentioned that, as they set out to make the movie, the filmmakers received letters from people around the U.S.S.R. telling them not to screw it up. When it was over, they got letters telling them they were happy with it.

Anyway, a stunning movie. You'll never see anything like it.

And, another thing---be sure to get the widescreen RUSCICO copy.

Oscar winning. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


One thing I noticed in the bonus material---Sergei Bondarchuk does what other directors do. He talks about his childhood, telling things that seem to foreshadow his becoming a director.

In Russia, film strip projectors were a common toy. All the kids had them. Different children's books were available on film strip.

Bondarchuk said that when he was growing in the Ukraine, owning any sort of projector was out of the question. So he improvised. He used a jar of water to act as a lens and used it to project his own film strips he made somehow.

There were some technical innovations in the movie, too. It was filmed in 70mm. Can you imagine a hand-held 70mm movie camera? Watch the bonus material and you can see them in use.

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