War and Peace

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Napoleon’s (Herbert Lom’s) tumultuous relations with Russia including his disastrous 1812 invasion serve as the backdrop for the tangled personal lives of two aristocratic families.

ACTORS :  Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer

YEAR OF RELEASE :  1956

POSTAGE : Free postage within Australia

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War and Peace  By 1812, Napoleon’s (Herbert Lom’s) forces controlled much of Europe. Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, prepares to face Napoleon’s troops together with Austria. Amongst the Russian soldiers, are Count Nikolai Rostov (Jeremy Brett) and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (Mel Ferrer). Count Pierre Bezukhov (Henry Fonda), a friend of Andrei’s, and self-styled intellectual, who is not interested in fighting. Pierre’s life changes when his father dies, leaving him a vast inheritance. He is attracted to Natasha Rostov (Audrey Hepburn), Nikolai’s sister, but she is too young, so he gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, manipulative Princess Helene (Anita Ekberg). The marriage ends when Pierre discovers his wife’s true nature. Andrei is captured and later released by the French, and returns home only to watch his wife die in childbirth. A few months later, Pierre and Andrei meet again. Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, but his father will only permit the marriage if …

King Vidor’s masterful version is simplified and stagey, but still beautifully done.

War and Peace  This film version of Tolstoy’s novel nicely captures the essence of his story. The VistaVision, Technicolor photography by Jack Cardiff give the the set pieces the look of a classic painting. Nino Rota’s lavish score perfectly compliments the visuals. The casting is superb; and even though Fonda is physically wrong in the critical role of Pierre, his dignified persona makes up for it. Hepburn, as ever, is radiant as Natasha, and hits her marks perfectly. Anita Ekberg’s superstructure alone brings Helene to life; Ferrer, Homolka and Mills are all, likewise, wonderful in this. The largely underappreciated Herbert Lom is absolutely brilliant as Napoleon. Practically speaking, this is a notable film adaptation of an enormous literary work, inspite of any comparisons one would care to make between the book and the movie.

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