At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon’s forces controlled much of Europe. In Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, the army prepares to face Napoleon’s troops in Austria. Among the soldiers are Nicholas Rostov and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Pierre Bezukhov, a friend of Andrei’s and self-styled intellectual who “knows what’s right but still does wrong,” is not interested in fighting. Pierre’s life changes when his father dies, leaving him a vast inheritance. He is attracted to Natasha Rostov, Nicholas’s sister, but gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, materialistic Princess Helene. The marriage quickly 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. During a visit to the country months later, Pierre and Andrei meet again. Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, but his father will only permit the marriage if they postpone it for one year. While Andrei is away in Poland on a military mission, Natasha is drawn to Anatole Kuragin, a scoundrel and libertine. Pierre tells Natasha of Anatole’s past before she can elope with him. Napoleon invades Russia. Pierre visits Andrei on the eve of the battle, and observes the battle that follows. Traumatized by the carnage, he vows to kill Napoleon himself. —IMDb
King Wallis Vidor (February 8, 1894 – November 1, 1982) was an acclaimed American film director whose career spanned nearly seven decades.
He was born in Galveston, Texas, where he survived the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. His grandfather, Charles Vidor, was a refugee of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 who settled in Galveston in the early 1850s.
A freelance newsreel cameraman and cinema projectionist, he made his debut as a director in 1913 with Hurricane in Galveston. In Hollywood from 1915, he worked on a variety of film-related jobs before directing a feature film, The Turn in the Road, in 1919. A successful mounting of Peg o’ My Heart in 1922 got him a long term contract with Goldwyn Studios, later to be absorbed into MGM. Three years later he made The Big Parade, among the most acclaimed war films of the silent era, and a tremendous commercial success. This success established him as one of MGM’s top studio directors for the next decade. In 1928, Vidor received… read more
A "faithful" adaptation of Tolstoy's sweeping epic is not the sole intent. The joy in being a spectator is Vidor's attempt at forcing a grand russian novel into a hollywood epic. What we get is a series of beautifully composed moving paintings. This film shows an artist at it's core. A fine work filled with success and failure, and yet still a marriage of all things cinematic. fuckin' amazing.
This is a very bold statement, but I think that if "War and Peace" were the only film ever made, I would be a very happy man.
"War and Peace is a meditation on the wonders of happiness, sadness, love and war, freedom, destiny, mind and matter, and much else. We cycle through emotions; through summer, winter, spring and fall; and, not least, through sensibilities: young persons, old persons, a demonic Napoleon, equally demonic lovers, each alternately subject and object, actor and toy, as their emotions take control of them and they search for solutions. One scene we are Natasha looking at Andrei; the next scene we are Andrei gazing at Natasha. (Solely in terms of the technical skill with which Vidor constantly insinuates us into one mind and out of another, War and Peace is fascinating.) We meditate on a face, on colours, on geometries of movement. Not only does each of the characters endure one painful or ecstatic peregrination after the next, but all the while they rhapsodise over what is happening to them (“Who am I now?”). Always there is the duality: the distance of a novelesque character, the immediacy of the actress; the exalted spirituality of experience, the incredible carnality of its expression. To watch Natasha run from the stairs to the parlour (to Andrei who declares his love) is to recall the similar way Jean Renoir’s adolescent girls dance toward life in The River (1950), but is also to glimpse a fashion of deportment as exotic as Japanese No theatre. The moments, at the ball, of Natasha’s transition from inner monologue wishing Andrei were there (“Prince Andrei”, she always says) to her realization that he is standing in front of her, and the strange poise with which she then extends her hand, capture a mode of being rare in the world of today." -Tag Gallagher