War And Peace (1956)

KING VIDOR

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5USA/, 1956Screenplay by , , , , , , based on the novel by Cinematography by Produced by Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 1956Golden Globe Awards 1956

Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer in War And Peace

Hollywood attempting to make a lengthy, weighty epic film out of Leo Tolstoy’s best-known novel is a perfectly sensible idea, coming out in the era of lengthy, weighty Cinemascope epics that were box office gold at the time, but the result, unfortunately, is a miss. gives one of her least interesting performances as the centre of a love triangle involving ideologically conflicted and brashly conservative , with a bit of passion for caddish thrown in at some point. That the adaptation does away with most of Tolstoy’s detailed exposition of politics and history is no huge surprise, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia is basically a bookend for the love story and the war of 1812 is treated as background music, but if it’s so simplistic a rendering of Tolstoy’s mammoth tome, why is it so long? Stripping the narrative down to a mere three and a half-hour running time is an impressive accomplishment, but it’s very hard to sit through and almost the entire main cast is an ill fit for their characters (Fonda is even less effective than Hepburn, surprisingly enough).  Jack Cardiff’s gorgeously shadowy cinematography is the main takeaway, but the awkward casting and mostly confused screenplay make for a very tepid soup that is not easy to swallow; thankfully, the exquisite Oscar-winning Russian version that came out a decade later makes up for all of it and more.

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