War and Peace is regarded as one of the most epic works of literature in recent centuries. Published in its entirety in 1869, War and Peace was famed writer, Leo Tolstoy's, most rigorous endeavor with nearly nine different rewrites.
War and Peace is a story that follows five different aristocratic families as their personal lives become entangled during Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812.
To adapt a novel of this magnitude for the screen takes a lot of dedication and attention to detail, especially for a limited 4 part mini-series. With the number of characters and heavy themes Tolstoy concocted throughout, it seems naive to believe that any writer/director would be able to embody the truth of War and Peace in only eight hours.
War & Peace: A 4 Part Mini-Series
Initial U.S. Release Date: Monday, January 18, 2016
Starring: Paul Dano, Lily James, James Norton, Gillian Anderson, Tuppence Middleton, Aneurin Barnard
Directed By: Tom Harper
Produced by The Weinstein Company and BBC, War & Peace will be broadcast on both The Lifetime Channel and A&E. And for anyone who loves a good period-piece, you should be delighted to know that the limited series was written by Andrew Davies, a pro in the made-for-TV department, having written adaptations of Pride and Prejudice (1995), Emma (1996), Vanity Fair (1998), et cetera.
War & Peace begins with a very busy foray into a ballroom. The opening scene has a very Paul Thomas Andersen feel to it as the camera pans from conversation to conversation while at a party, slowly, yet quickly introducing each character and their intentions. Yet, I find this advanced attempt a poor way of skipping through character development.
The sense of the time (1805) is clearly displayed with many sweeping shots of landscapes and dazzling cities (St Petersburg especially riveting). What makes these scenes even more fantastic is the score, which seems to be a mix of nineteenth century classical influence and electronica.
I find Paul Dano to be the only actor of substance. His portrayl of Pierre Bezukhov, a socially awkward young man who comes into an inheritance, had me glued to the screen. Dano's expressions of despair and confusion held on to me as he struggled with the idea of a revolution, but as soon as he left the screen my confusion and ADD kicked in distracting me from the continuing characters' arcs.
While Lily James is a sight of pure beauty, her scenes as the naive Natasha Rostova were quite stale. Technically, Natasha is a 13 year old girl at the beginning of the story, so I suppose as the series carries on, James' performance will hold more depth, but I just see it becoming more of a soap-opera themed debauchery.
In the first war scene, an aerial shot of a horse bolting across the war zoned field was striking, yet the rest of the fighting sequences lacked emotion.
I am extremely interested in seeing where the series will go (mainly for Dano's performance), but at the moment I fear it is as I expected; Another period piece with weak acting hidden by decadent decor and elaborate costumes.