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War & Peace

Lyudmila Saveleva , Vyacheslav Tikhonov , Sergey Bondarchuk    Unrated   VHS Tape
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Like Tolstoy's novel, this epic-length War and Peace is rough going, but worth the effort. Winner of the 1969 Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film and widely considered the most faithful adaptation of Tolstoy's classic, Sergei Bondarchuk's massive Soviet-Italian coproduction was seven years in the making, at a record-setting cost of $100 million. Bondarchuk himself plays the central role of Pierre Bezukhov, buffeted by fate during Russia's tumultuous Napoleonic Wars, serving as pawn and philosopher through some of the most astonishing set pieces ever filmed. Bondarchuk is a problematic director: interior monologues provide awkward counterpoint to intimate dramas, weaving together the many classes and characters whose lives are permanently affected by war. Infusions of '60s-styled imagery clash with the film's period detail; it's an anomalous experiment that doesn't really work. Undeniably, however, the epic battle scenes remain breathtakingly unique; to experience the sheer scale of this film is to realize that such cinematic extravagance will never be seen again. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bondarchuk's "War and Peace" released by RUSCICO May 21 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD
A gargantuan version of Tolstoy's national epic, approached as a priority as important as the Soviet space program, War and Peace is surely the biggest production ever put on film, with entire armies filling the screen and covering vast landscapes. The recreation of the Napoleonic era in St. Petersburg and Moscow is a wonderment. Director Sergei Bondarchuk makes the story work even better at the intimate level. The romantic adventures and heartbreaks of the story's central trio, Pierre, Natasha and Andrei lead to at least 4 or 5 devastatingly emotional highpoints.
Previously, there was the 1956 Dino DeLaurentiis version. Except for some awkward casting, it wasn't half bad, but it pales beside the opulence and scope of this colossus. Ruscico's version is both longer and better-presented than previous releases, and Image has packaged it with helpful extras and easily-navigated menus. More on that below.
Savant was excited to see this pricey-but-exceptional DVD release; Ruscico has a reputation for quality releases of hard-to-see Soviet pictures, and War and Peace is certainly the prize title, at least for Western audiences unfamiliar with the majority of Mosfilm's output. I saw the American release when 16 years old, serialized over two weeks in a fancy theater in San Bernardino. I can't say I followed the story well, and mostly remember the grainy, washed out picture and the distracting English dubbing - Natasha's voice squeaked like Minnie Mouse. But the eye-popping visuals stayed burned into my memory, especially a God's eye view, receding into the heavens, of the Austerlitz battlefield spread out below. It looked as if it took in miles of smoke and fighting.
In Russian with subs in a number of languages, the new Ruscico / Image DVD is a completely different viewing experience.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best battle sequences ever filmed Jan. 5 2006
By Gayle Gibson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The Russian version of War and Peace is quite wonderful on CD. Many scenes not available in the old video are here, and the colour, sound and over-all quality of the images is far superior.
The battles are just as terrifying as i recall from seeing it in the Theatre, thirty years ago. Borodino is particularly moving, filmed on the site, at the right time of year, and with the Russian army standing in for the French under Napoleon and for the Russian army. There's a world of difference between seeing hundreds of thousands of real men on a real landscape, and watching a CG battle. No film gives a better sense of what those old battles were really like.
One way in which this version is superior to either the old American or more modern British versions, is that the actors are Russian, and look Russian. This most Russian of stories really needs to have an authentic cast. The expanded time allows for longer scenes with some of the older actors, veterans of the Moscow Art Theatre. It's a treat to watch them.
The film is skillfully dubbed, with much more attention to lip-sync than the old Video. The new voices match the quality and timbre of the Russian actors' own voices much more closely. Oddly, not all of the film is dubbed. Within a single scene two characters may be speaking together in Russian with clear subtitles in English, but when a third character comes in, they all start speaking English! In some scenes, the language switches several times. Characters speaking in French are neither dubbed into English nor subtitled. This is a little odd at first, but one quickly becomes used to it, and begins to enjoy the sound of the Russian actors' voices.
I am quite delighted with this set, and recommend it highly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of Fiction and History Oct. 18 2002
Format:DVD
Ok, it is over six hours long but would you want it any other way. Hollywood tried to bring Tolstoy's epic to the screen in 1956 and produced one of the worst translations from novel to film in history. This is a Russian story as big as the nation itself. Only a Russian as brilliant as Sergei Bondarchuk could understand the complexities of the struggle of the Russian people against a tyrant. We see history unfold through the eyes of a naive Pierre, and as he experiences the torments of war and class struggle, he changes. So will you when you watch this film.
The visuals of battle have never been matched. Private Ryan is as close as an American film has come to depicting the beauty and horror of battle. The music creates the perfect undercurrent of romance and adventure. The acting is both strong and sincere. It is the Russian Gone with the Wind. Buy it and it will absorbed you. This is one of the greatest films ever made. If Kubrick had made Napoleon, it would have looked like this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars poor bit rate ruins effort Jan. 4 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire film.

In plain english, the picture quality is fine in a still shot, but during camera pans and quick movement in a shot there are very noticeable jagged edges to the picture (the picture quality is similar to the bonus material on your average DVD). This problem is very apparent when this film is viewed on a big screen TV.
This defeciency coupled with the subtitles and the length of the film can result in quite a headache for the viewer.
I'm not certain why a dvd produced in 2002 would have this problem. There are 4 disks (3 of which are about 90-100 minutes) so there should be sufficient disk space for a higher quality picture.
The sound (dolby digital 5.1 in Russian, English and French) is quite good. Much better that the usual 5.1 remix of a mono movie. Sometimes the 5.1 mix is a bit overdone (when a actor is speaking from off camera their heavily reverbed disembodied voice is emmited from one of the rear channels) but in general it is apparent a lot of effort was put into the remixing. This is a lot better that the usual mono to 5.1 remix where half of the music cues are processed but 80% of the sound goes solely to the center speaker. It is a real shame that Ruscico didn't put the same effort into the picture quality.
There are some other small technical difficulties with the disk (as mentioned in previous reviews) and the english dubbing is terrible (as it was when the film was theatrically released in North America). However, all of this pales in comparison with the picture quality which ruins the entire effort.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars war and peace - a1
exceeded my expectations. quality of acting and cinematography was excellant as was the acting and direction. would highly recommend. to-day's movies not even close.
Published 15 months ago by john ohorodnyk
5.0 out of 5 stars War and Peace (1968)
A really great film, especially given when it was produced (1968). Fine acting from a finely-casted crew, and it does not stray from Tolstoy's original.
Published on May 23 2011 by Matthew
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed it....
I prefer a movie to be subtitled, as this one was, rather than have it "dubbed". Having the Russians make a movie from a book written by one of their countrymen makes it that... Read more
Published on July 2 2007 by Lubi A. Marchant
1.0 out of 5 stars Ruscico War & Peace DVD is horribly defective
ZERO STARS. What a dissappointment! The film randomly switches between English and Russian and French dubbing ---sometimes in the same section--- and the subtitles don't always... Read more
Published on June 20 2004 by Constance Kochkin
5.0 out of 5 stars Grand epic
This is an excellent movie. The dubbing situation was strange, but that doesn't detract form the overall quality. Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2004 by some guy
2.0 out of 5 stars poor bit rate ruins effort
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire film.
Published on Jan. 4 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars poor bit rate ruins effort
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire... Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by J. Tymchyshyn
2.0 out of 5 stars poor bit rate ruins effort
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire... Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by J. Tymchyshyn
2.0 out of 5 stars poor bit rate ruins effort
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire... Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Disk set ruined by poor bit rate
This well presented and attractively packaged boxed set suffers terribly from an insufficient bit rate which results in continuous compression artifacts throughout the entire... Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by J. Tymchyshyn
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