War and Peace Reviews
This is not a film but a monument, a tribute, a love letter of Cliff's Notes to Tolstoy's novel. Though I must confess that I have yet to read the book, I can see lurking beneath the melodrama of the film Tolstoy's sharp characters and moral dilemmas. Tolstoy is so sharp a writer and such a master of inner monologue that no film could get inside the heads of these characters like his prose, and there lies the film's weakness. But despite its medium and the film's flaws, what lies beneath unfolds in fits and starts. And what fits and starts they are. The need for war but the reasonable repulsion of it, the dalliance of youth and the practiced certitude of adulthood, and the question of what makes militaries and states great are all themes that emerge if only in abstractions in King Vidor's epic film.
Overall, this is an ambitious project that fails because it cannot capture all the goals its source material sets, but it succeeds sublimely sometimes.
Okay, now, sit down, because this may blow you away: ...I have never read "War and Peace", if you can believe it, considering that I'm "such a big reader" (Sorry, but sarcasm is hard to convey in text), though I am certainly that, for this film adaptation, the story had to be cut to ribbons, though not quite as deeply as you might think. To my finding, the film really doesn't feel terribly hurried in its progression, yet what the abridging does taint are some of your more subtle touches, which can mean the most in cases such as these. Tonal transitions, of which I'm sure there is supposed to be many, feel too brief, leaving the film tonally uneven, with an inconsistent level of urgency, though urgency that never really takes off that far. The humanity within the source material is not terribly fleshed out, rendering the complexities within some characters to feel lacking in motivation, leaving a fair deal of characters either unlikable or simply uninteresting, as there's not enough exposition behind their humanity for it to stand all that firm as believable. Also, the tainted sweep within the film leaves the general resonance to often go limp, sometimes to the point of being disengaging, and this ineffectiveness is made all the worse by some repetition and the simple fact that this film, by it's own right, is fairly generic. Whether it be because the film omits many of the inventive touch that made many points in the original text so unique or whatever, this film often collapses into many a convention found throughout films of its type and time, rendering its engagement to further go distant, leaving at a state of being not at all emotionally vacant, though still rather emotionally lacking. However, while this film is not up to par with its potential, let alone its source material, it's still an enjoyable epic, held together by epic sweep that may not be terribly intense, though not from lack of trying.
Only so many production designs really bounce out, and the ones that do tend to be a little familiar, yet they still stand as components to an immersive atmosphere over this film. Much of this can also be said about Jack Cardiff's cinematographer, which doesn't standout terribly, especially considering the dating, yet there's still enough engaging scope to it that is rarely used to really capture the world, yet when it does, it's a sight to see. I wish there was more manipulation of the spectacle to supplement substance, yet as things stand, the livliness in the production really does keep the film from getting too disengaging, structuring the world well enough to where some emotional resonance can be found. Much of the rest of the resonance is handled by, well, certainly not the performers. Audrey Hepburn really stands out as obnoxiously unlikable in her one-note, badly overacted performance, and a couple of other performers aren't much better, with the ones who are genuinely good giving their all, yet with not enough equal players to land a terribly deep dent in this film's armor of underwhelmingness. The final blow to the film that makes it ultimately worth a shot is director King Vidor, who is in no way not at fault for damaging the film on some level, yet he also makes it as enjoyable as it is, bestowing upon the atmosphere consistent charm and entertainment value, while what resonant moments that do make it through go intensified by Vidor's, at times, engrossing storytelling. Now, I understand that these strengths don't sound all that powerful, especially in comparison to the flaws of the film, yet what this film does deliver on, it hits so sharply that it almost leaves the film to fully transcend averageness, yet the flaws still stand to firmly, though not enough for the film to still stand as, if nothing else, thoroughly entertaining, even if much is ultimately left to be desired from a substance standpoint.
At the end of the day, which is the probably the appropriate length need for this film to really deliver, while the cuts aren't terribly glaring, as far as pacing and progression is concerned, there's still such damaging trimming to the tonal consistency and other unique touches, rendering the film occasionally repetitious and generic, as well disengagingly distant and often uneven, yet the film is made attractive by its sweeping production, as well as consistent charm and entertainment value, broken up by the occasional piece of genuine emotional impact, thus leaving King Vidor's take on "War and Peace" to stand as faulty as an worthy adaptation of the classic novel, yet still wildly entertaining as an epic, by its own right.
2.5/5 - Fair
Two aristocrat French families in the early 1800s are split by the war. Napoleon is on a mission of world domination while the families are on a mission to find love. As the families are split by the war and need for troops, star crossed lovers try to find a way to make things work.
"I have sinned, Lord. But I have several fine excuses."
King Vidor, director of The Big Parade, Duel in the Sun, The Crowd, Solomon and Sheba, Three Wise Fools, and Dusk Till Dawn, delivers War and Peace. The storyline for this picture is amazing and wonderfully compelling. This picture is a true epic in every way and concludes well. I loved the script, characters, and acting. The cast includes Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer, Barry Jones, and May Britt.
"You study and become enlightened. I study and become confused."
War and Peace is a movie I came across on Netflix and was surprised that there is a Audrey Hepburn film I was completely oblivious to. I really liked how this film came together. This is a very long picture with several fascinating characters. The subplots are excellent and the overall film comes together perfectly. There are some slow portions of this film; but overall, this is definitely a must see.
"Death is an awakening."