Monday, February 1, 2016

Does TV get much better than WAR AND PEACE?

The Cast of War and Peace
     We decided to tape War and Peace because it was going to be long and we weren’t sure we’d like it.  We started watching the first episode and thought we’d give it ten minutes or so.  After half an hour, we decided to keep watching and finished the first hour, then watched the second hour the following evening.  It plays simultaneously on The History Channel and, surprisingly, Lifetime and A&E.  I thought A&E had given up on quality fictional programming.  Produced by The Weinstein Company, it’s playing here a couple of weeks after being on the BBC.  

The Sweeping Napoleonic War
     The format is two hours each Monday at 9 p.m., though Lifetime shows the previous week’s episode right beforehand.  Covering an over 1,200-page novel in eight hours with commercials requires some concision (the BBC’s 1972 version was fifteen hours), but it captures the sweep of Tolstoy’s epic of the Russian aristocracy during the Napoleonic Wars and details of the family relationships that defined the culture of that era.  Tolstoy presented an entire world through his characters without a trace of sentimentality or condescension.  

Natasha and Andrei
     Besides the thrilling battle scenes that cleverly suggested even more soldiers than they showed and the elegant, serpentine camera movement during the key ball scenes, there have also been suggestive dream sequences, a wild incestuous relationship between two of the most selfish characters in popular culture right now, a quickly glimpsed yet graphic childbirth scene, and richly delineated scenes of rural life.  Filmed in Lithuania, it strongly resembles St. Petersburg and Moscow and George Steel’s cinematography utilizes as much natural light as possible.  

Paul Dano
    The acting leads really bring it especially Paul Dano as Pierre, looking for a way to use his intellect and help his serfs; James Norton as Andrei, looking for a way to explore the depths of love after a near-death experience and a tragic first marriage; and Jack Lowden as Nikolai, always trying to reconcile his impetuousness with a stumbling strength. Are they the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion of 19th century Russian literature? It’s good to see Greta Scacchi 
Greta Scacchi's TV Family
after a long dry spell since Countess Rostova displays a sharpness that tempers her initial kindness, though as Neil said, “Gillian Anderson seems to be giving that Eleanor Parker performance” (Cate Blanchett seems to be resuscitating that acting style in Carol.  What’s with actresses lately moving into middle age and trading emotional grit for technical polish?)

    For those viewers that aren’t able to recap from the beginning, here’s hoping that War and Peace will be repeated in the near future.
Tuppence Middleton as Helene Kuragin

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