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If King Vidor's version of War and Peace suffered from its Hollywood-style simplification of Tolstoy's tale, Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk's WAR AND PEACE may be too painstakingly faithful to the novel. Originally released in the USSR in four parts totaling almost nine hours, the film

was cut to 380 minutes for its US and video release. Russian sources estimated its production to cost over $100 million. The picture is most successful in its epic battle scenes (the battle of Borodino runs nearly an hour), which stunningly portray the scope and inhumanity of war, and in its

equally staggering, lavishly re-created visions of the Russian aristocracy's glamor and wealth, most notably the ball at which Andrei (Vyacheslav Tikhonov) meets Natasha (Ludmilla Savelyeva). (Bondarchuk himself plays Pierre.) In between the spectacles, however, are some failures of dramatic

finesse and pacing--particularly Bondarchuk's overreliance on narration and interior monolog to convey the complexity of Tolstoy's characters--flaws compounded for English-speaking viewers by the affectless quality of the dubbing. Nonetheless, Bondarchuk's film, which won a Best Foreign Film Oscar

and was also serialized for British television, is certainly the definitive movie version of War and Peace, memorably impressive in its scope and ambition. The film was also nominated for the Best Art Direction Oscar.

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  • Review: If King Vidor's version of War and Peace suffered from its Hollywood-style simplification of Tolstoy's tale, Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk's WAR AND PEACE may be too painstakingly faithful to the novel. Originally released in the USSR in four parts tot… (more)

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