The Birth

Because of the sheer length of this film, I am going to look at each of the four parts as I finish them. Back in the 1960’s, director Sergei Bondarchuk made an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel War And Peace and it is still considered to be the most expensive film ever made with an approximate budget of $700 million. Compare that to the approximate $200 million budget for Avatar and you get an idea of the size, scope, and detail that you can expect from this film.

It begins with a small green spiral dot that grows closer to the screen as if are traveling down the birth canal into the world. We appear to be underwater for awhile until the camera takes us onto land where the human story begins. In 1805 St. Petersburg, we enter a get together for the height of Russian society. As the camera moves through the crowd, we are gracefully introduced to the main characters like Pierre Bezukhov (Sergei Bondarchuk) who is going to stay home while his friend Andrei Bolkonsky (Vyacheslav Tikhonov) is going to fight Napoleon.

Pierre Bezukhov (Sergei Bondarchuk)

Andrei Bolkonsky (Vyacheslav Tikhonov)

After the party the two characters take separate paths that span the first part of the film. Pierre stays home, inherits money from a recently deceased relative, and is forced into a marriage. He isn’t so much a pacifist as one who can’t find happiness where he is, but doesn’t see military service an entrance to the world as college is thought to be today. Andrei on the other hand seems to be equally disenchanted with where he is, but is convinced that his destiny lies on the battlefield.

But that’s enough plot, it’s the battlefield scenes that are the star of show. There is an overwhelming awe and hopelessness to the scenes that make the battlefields a vast impersonal place where people come to die. Why talk when I can show.

Ignore Your Dead Friends. Close Your Ranks!!!

The Battlefield Seen From Above

I am going to reserve my verdict until I see all the parts, but I doubt it is going to be below the best of the best unless it manages to piss me off in the remaining three parts. Onward to part 2!