|The Sacking Of Moscow|
After being defeated at the Battle Of Borodino, Russian military leaders have to make the difficult decision of what to do next. They decide to retreat and abandon Moscow leading to a sacking sequence that is best described as biblical. I kept waiting for the golden calf to show up and Moses to throw an iPad…tablet at the French.
After that, Napoleon leaves to go back to Europe and we see in montage the French army slowly dwindle away as they march through the Russian winter.
During all of this, we follow both Pierre and the Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Pierre decides to stay behind in Moscow when the order to evacuate comes in. At first he is mistaken to be a Frenchman because he is able to speak French, but ends up wandering the city during the sacking as we watch the chaos unfold. Much like the battlefield sequences in previous parts, we are just overcome.
Having been injured prior to the sacking, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky is taken away and has surreal moments as he lies near death.
This final part of the film is epic, but coming after the previous epic battlefield and ballroom sequences, you start to spot certain repeated patterns like the flying camera on a wire that start to detract from the immersion. However, that’s a small complaint. Even the ending that bothered me works because it feels tacked on. The happy ending has Napoleon’s forces dying away until the remaining ones turn to the Russians for help. The Russians take them in out of the kindness of their hearts and then celebrate that wonderful Russian quality for compassion before commenting that the French look terrible. Then we get a parting line about how if the bad get together, then the good must get together too. However, the film never presents the Russians as having succeeded through collective resistance and the French are drones who are bad because of their actions at Moscow. Even Napoleon is presented with a certain reverence except in the treatment of his men. I guess that could be considered the real victory for the Russians. Whereas Napoleon and the upper crust of Russia brought it to the brink of destruction, the people were able to triumph. I couldn’t help thinking that the Russian general at the end should have pointed to the disheveled French soldiers and said, “Duh, Winning!” since obviously the Russian people have tiger blood.
As a whole, Sergei Bondarchuk’s adaptation of War And Peace is extraordinary. Smaller films have done much more with much less, but large films rarely make this kind of impact. The film has propaganda throughout, most notably in the journey of Pierre as he undergoes a semi-class enlightenment: “Life is everything”. He steadily falls from the upper crust in action despite a caste connection he is unable to cut. A prequel to the Cossack slaughters of silent cinema that end with the worker’s revolution. Striping away the Soviet politics, Bondarchuk seems to raise war up as the ultimate evil that happens when good people stand alone, instead of together. I could probably re-watch the film and find layers I didn’t even know were there. This is a once in a lifetime film that I can’t recommend enough.
Hopefully, there won’t be as much time between my butcherings of the English language that I call reviews next time and I promise no more Charlie Sheen references.