I am no art "prude"--I do sometimes allow myself a trial run of something I know would be dreadful and unconscionable in the art sense, even if for the reason that "I've seen or heard" some "art" and have at least mildly "enlightened" opinion on one or another piece o' shit. I am also not a movie, music or literary critic. But what I witnessed yesterday.....
Defies imagination, especially for people who know Tolstoy's masterpiece by heart (as I do) both in Russian and English languages.
There are some things which must be left untouched in the world of high culture. The moment the society wants to know if Scarlett O'Hara gave a blowjob to Rhett Butler, it is not Margaret Mitchell's masterpiece's, however defined as overly sexual in its time, downfall--it is society's. And then there is War And Peace by Count Tolstoy. It is arguably, approaching the "absolutely" position, greatest prose ever written. The scope, the scale, the humanity of this immortal novel are unmatched in world literature. It was also first polyphonic novel of this scale, which set up the trend later continued by said Margaret Mitchell with her epic Gone With The Wind (Mitchell never hid the fact of being influenced by Tolstoy), by John Galsworthy in his The Forsyte Saga and, of course, later Soviet/Russian epic novels such as Sholohov's And Quiet Flows The Don (Tikhii Don) and Alexey Tolstoy's The Ordeal (Hozhdenie Po Mukam). I could continue the list with Hemingway and others but that is beyond the point--it is a scientific fact of War And Peace being a gem of a literature. It is also a scientific fact that Tolstoy didn't describe how Dolokhov fucked Helen Bezukhova--on the table, doggy style or in missionary position. But that is precisely what concerns contemporary BBC purveyors of this dreck and here is the second, most important, issue.
There are some things which must not be touched in any way when a milestone exists already. Imagine current Russian cinematographers attempt on Gone With The Wind remake. The question is, apart from the obvious question of why, how can Russians convey all those typical American Southern Civil War time idiosyncrasies which make this cinematographic masterpiece genuinely American, not Russian "version" of it? It is obvious that NO Scarlet O'Hara other than Vivien Leigh can exist anymore--period. Vivien Leigh IS Scarlet O'Hara and nothing can change this fact. So is true for Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. They became iconic and this term implies worshiping, and deservedly so, not trying to change an icon. Of course, in my amateur opinion it is sometimes possible to do better, as it happened with Coen brothers' True Grit, where incomparable Jeff Bridges and Heilee Stainfeld created on-screen magic so powerful that it is difficult to go back to John Wayne's version of Rooster Cogburn. But then again, even this wonderful novel and a movie are still not in the same league. Enter War And Peace movies.
There were numerous attempts on Tolstoy's classic. Most of them in Anglo-world. There were numerous TV series and then, of course, there was a a 1956 major Hollywood attempt with charming Audrey Hepburn as Natasha and Henry Fonda as Pierre. It didn't cut it. And yes, Natasha never met Prince Andrey Bolskonski on the hunt, she met him at the ball being introduced by Pierre. Raping the actual plot and timeline of the novel have become such a tradition that it still continues today with all those screen writers freely rewriting Tolstoy's classic to fit their pathetic needs. The problem here is aggravated with the fact that there is a cinematographic icon, in fact masterpiece, which solved the scope and scale of Tolstoy's text--it is Sergei Bondarchuk's 431 minute long magical TRUE adaptation of not only colossal polyphony of Tolstoy's novel but of its timeline and its, what is most important, spirit. That is what Roger Ebert wrote in 1969 about that, already Oscar-winner film:
".... the Russian version of "War and Peace" is a magnificently unique film. Money isn't everything, but you can't make an epic without it. And "War and Peace" is the definitive epic of all time. It is hard to imagine that circumstances will ever again combine to make a more spectacular, expensive, and -- yes -- splendid movie. Perhaps that's just as well; epics seem to be going out of favor, replaced instead by smaller, more personal films. Perhaps this greatest of the epics will be one of the last, bringing the epic form to its ultimate statement and at the same time supplying the epitaph.By now the statistics regarding "War and Peace" are well known, but forgive me if I recite them with a certain relish anyway: the film was five years in the making at a cost of $100,000,000, with a cast of 120,000, all clothed in authentic uniforms, and the Red Army was mobilized to recreate Napoleon's battles exactly (it is claimed) as they happened.
The prestige of the Soviet film industry rested on "War and Peace" for half a decade, and the result looks like it. You are never, ever, going to see anything to equal it. Indeed, because of the need to schedule the film in two segments of three hours each, you may never even see it unless you go during the current four-week run at the Esquire. It is difficult to imagine this massive, six-hour film playing neighborhood theaters or turning up on the late show. It is easy enough to praise director Sergei Bondarchuk for his thundering battle scenes, or his delicate ballroom scenes, or the quality of his actors. But these were almost to be expected. What is extraordinary about "War and Peace" is that Bondarchuk was able to take the enormous bulk of Leo Tolstoy's novel and somehow transform it into this great chunk of film without losing control along the way."
When Bondarchuk's film came out it stunned the wold, never before nor since anything like this was made. As Nick Pinkerton of Village Voice wrote: "This is the barbaric yawp of the Soviet film industry circa 1968, an entertainment A-bomb test announcing to the world: 'Here is what we are capable of' .''
It could take me many pages to just list praises to what have become the most unique cinematographic experience of the age. A superb acting, strict following of the text and timeline of the novel, absolutely unrivaled battle scenes, stunning music score by Ovchinnikov, camera work--all came together to make Tostoy's novel alive on the screen. It also became the most expensive movie ever made. But these were novel characters which since then became iconic to such a degree that for any cultured Russian (or any other nationality) man or a woman it is impossible anymore to see Natasha Rostova other than Lyudmila Savelieva, Pierre other than Bondarchuk himself, who managed to transcend the age of his character. It is impossible to imagine Prince Andrei other than Vyacheslav Tikhonov or see Kutuzov as not Boris Zakhava. Oleg Tabakov IS Nikolai Rostov, to the very last fiber of what Nikolai is in the novel. The movie itself transcended the novel. All this was achieved without fucking, blow jobs and incest which NEVER was in Tolstoy's epic, other than description of Helen Kuragina's (later Bezukhova) "marble" rich breasts, which naturally beautiful and talented Irina Skobtseva (real life wife of Sergei Bondarchuk) portrayed by exhibiting her cleavage in the scene of Pierre being devastated by the death of his father. That is it. Yet, both book and movie are filled with love, betrayal and devotion of its characters. This is what got lost on the "creators" and rapist of the original book at BBC. How could Tolstoy fail to notice that his immortal novel would have been much better with the description of sexual positions, probably blow jobs and incest. Too bad, he didn't live to be instructed by BBC producers.
And, of course, those cretins will never be able to understand that Russian Army couldn't greet Tzar Alexander, who, accidentally, viewed Russian and Austrian troops on the eve of Austerlitz in the company of Emperor Francis, with shaking their hands with weapons in them and jumping. Regular armies, do not behave like this and since the times primordial, maintaining a beautiful line of rank and files in a face of highest authority is what military does, responding to greetings unison greeting and with hooray. Didn't they see any parades from Red Square?
So, after Dolokhov fucked Helen on the table, after Russian Army greeted its Tzar behaving as a bunch of undisciplined monkeys I got the message--this is a disgrace. I turned off the TV and am not going to watch this POS anymore. BBC, go fuck yourself....on the table for defacing a great work of art and literature. Creeps. Better yet, upload it to the Pornhub--it is where it belongs. I, however, will stick to the icon.