War & Peace @ the BBC

The BBC are showing their adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace right now – 6 episodes, and next Sunday is the finale. I have been watching it religiously every week and am very much enjoying it. It was adapted for the screen by Andrew Davies (from 1995’s Pride and Prejudice fame).

I won’t go into the plot here, Wikipedia can tell you much more than I can. Suffice it to say that it is set at the beginning of the 19th century in Russia and it involves 3 main characters with of course many characters surrounding them. I never read War & Peace, the prospect has always been a litle too daunting. I did see the 1950’s movie version with Audrey Hepburn, which I remember quite enjoying but it’s so long ago since I watched that, I don’t remember too much of it. Going into this BBC series I did have expectations, though. I expected to be rooting for the main female character Natasha and for Prince Andrei and I hoped to like the character of Pierre. Now, 5 epsiodes in and almost at the end, I find I am rooting for two different characters than I expected to!

War & Peace - Generics

It turns out that Prince Andrei (James Norton on the right), while brooding and sexy, is a little too depressing for me. James Norton does do a great job as Andrei and I already liked him in Death Comes to Pemberley but I find the character a little too down. Natasha (Lily James) goes from bubbly to sobered up and while the acting is great – I don’t know, Lily James just does not do it for me (she didn’t do it for me in the Cinderella movie either. I never saw her in Downton Abbey so I wouldn’t know about that). No, the one I love most in this adaptation is flawed, searching, idealistic Pierre (Paul Dano on the left). He has a vulnerability, insecurity, warmth and yes, dorkiness about him that is just so touching. I liked him from the get go and then, at the end of episode 3, when he watches Andrei and Natasha dance (which really is a magical dance scene!) and later urges his friend Andrei to ask for Natasha’s hand in marriage – that sealed the deal for me!

war & peace (2)war & peace (3)

Andrei and Natasha, yes, they’re fine together, but what I love more is Andrei’s and Pierre’s friendship! When they are on the screen together, talking about life and it’s challenges, that’s when War & Peace becomes magical to me.

War & Peace

I am not the only one who thinks Paul Dano is a revelation. A Radio Times piece states exactly the same thing! I quote:

“While it was a lovely moment when Andrei (James Norton) revealed that he was in love with Natasha (Lily James), it was Pierre’s “go get her” speech that really gave us goosebumps. Because as he smiled at his friend’s happiness, the glimmer of grief in his eyes, the pain of unrequited love, was almost unbearable. And this week, when Pierre, bleary eyed and unfit for war, abandoned his idealism to bathe in Napoleon’s bloodbath, he was the most mesmerising character on-screen.”

The female character that I find I am rooting for most is Prince Andrei’s long suffering sister Marya, who is really treated very harshly by her father. She is played beautifully by actress Jessie Buckley, who I recently saw at the cinema in the National Theatre Live production of A Winter’s Tale (with Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench). I really liked her in that too. She’s someone to watch out for!

war & peace (7)

Due to her austere father Marya has escaped into a reclusive, hyper religious life, taking care of her little nephew (Prince Andrei’s son from his first wife who died). Now that her father is dead, she seems to be blossoming a little and the beginning of that transformation is beautiful. I can’t wait to see how that develops over the next (and last) episode.

So, yes, I am enjoying War & Peace but for different reasons than I imagined! Oh, and the acting from everyone in this is really excellent. Well worth a watch!

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28 thoughts on “War & Peace @ the BBC

  1. Hört sich sehr gut an! Ich hoffe und gehe davon aus, dass es auch mal bei uns im TV kommt. Krieg und Frieden habe ich vor Ewigkeiten mal gelesen und auch den Film gesehen, ist aber schon seeeehr lange her 🙂 Aber die Story ist spannend, die Neuverfilmung hat sich offensichtlich gelohnt!

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  2. Wow! This looks amazing. After seeing Paul Dano in “There Will Be Blood” I have to agree with you that he is mesmerizing. You think at first that he’s not much to look at, but on screen he just grabs you.
    Exquisite costumes by the way…

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    • I still haven’t seen “There Will Be Blood” and I always mean to because of Daniell Day Lewis. Paul Dano really is extra incentive to watch it!
      Oh yes, the look is great! Even the battle scenes – there was one scene last Sunday of an explosion and Pierre gets blasted backwards, that was pretty spectacular.

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      • TWBB is a very good movie, though not what you want to watch when you’re sick in bed and need cheering up! I avoided it for along time because of the “blood” in the title, but it’s actually not that violent. Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing, as always 🙂

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  3. Thanks! I confess I’ve never read W&P either… but I’m always up for a good period drama and this looks really good.

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    • I have heard a few people who are less keen on it but I really like it in any case! 🙂 Don’t adore it as much as I do the other series I found and blogged about the other day (A Place To Call Home) but it’s still good. Should be coming to BBC America soon, I think.

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  4. I agree completely that Pierre (Paul Dano) is the dark horse/favorite character, and like you, I can’t seem to warm up to Andrei. The production is just so lush, and for TV production, I think they did “OK” with the battle scenes. When the BBC announced the new production, we had some fun in the blogging world wondering whether RIchard Armitage might find a role.https://armitageagonistes.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/a-charming-little-book-the-perfect-future-project-for-richard-armitage/

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    • Ha! I didn’t realise you had suggested that! Cool! 🙂
      I’m OK with Andrei, especially in the scenes together with Pierre, I love when those two get together and talk. For me it’s Natasha I really can’t seem to warm up to…

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  5. I haven’t been able to get into it at all. This would have been a good candidate for me, insofar as I’ve tried so many times to read W&P and never gotten past about page 200 — I was hoping the series would revive it for me. But I stopped halfway through episode 2. I found the book boring and I find what I’ve seen of the series boring and overwrought at the same time.

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  6. I watched the 1956 version of W&P with Audrey Hepburn and really enjoyed it. I am not a fan of Lily James in Downton Abbey or Cinderella. Does anyone else choose not to watch a show or movie because there is one actor they don’t like? I’m afraid (especially after seeing Audrey in the role) that I wouldn’t enjoy this at all.

    Thanks for giving us your review.

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    • Yes, absolutely. If I think the one actor will be such a turnoff, I don’t waste my time (50% of the reason I didn’t watch the Fargo episodes — fear of annoyance caused by Martin Freeman).

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    • Yes, I will avoid a movie or show if the actor doesn’t appeal to me. However, if I really am interested in the story, I’ll give it a go and hope for the best.
      It’s been so long ago since I saw the Audrey Hepburn version but I love her, so yeah, no one can hold a candle to her anyhow.
      Interesting that you haven’t liked Lily James much either. She’s also the lead in the new Pride & Prejudice and zombies movie. I had wanted to go see that, despite the zombies, but now with Lily James in it as well… hmmm… I wonder if my love for P&P will be stronger than all these objections…

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  7. Ah yes the leading characters in War and Peace. I understand why it is you like Pierre, I do to. And I so wish him to be happy.
    A minor (but important) role that I liked was played by Ken Stott. His (Balin) voice gave him away even before we could see him.
    I find the war scenes just awful, the choices made by generals amaze me. It seems so easy to send soldiers straight into their deaths (the strategic logic behind walking into cannon fire escapes me completely).
    I read the book, but that was years ago and I must admit that I forgot how it all ends. So episode 6 may have some surprises for me in store.
    Downton Abbey is definitely worth watching (even with Lily James), so if you get the chance… Maggie Smith is superb as the Dowager Countess. Last weekend I saw her in The lady in the van and the contrast between the two characters could not be greater. But the way she plays this woman is superb too.
    The BBC just keeps on producing quality material, I’m glad we get to see a lot of it.

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    • I was just talking about that the other day, how I love how many good things the BBC produces! It’s pretty much all we watch nowadays – Dutch TV never seems to offer me anything I like… or in any case very very little. There’s a new Call The Midwife series airing now as well on the BBC, which I’m really enjoying!
      Yes, the war scenes are awful – and that last scene last Sunday with the amputation was not pretty…
      I have watched some Downton Abbey but for some reason or other I never quite took to it. Although yes, Maggie Smith – she is absolutely marvelous! And I really want to see that van movie as well.

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  8. Paul Dano was extraordinary, he is just so natural at it. Honestly what an actor. When he almost lets it slip to Natasha that he loves her I was like I just wish he finds love 😦 . And Andrei he does need to cheer up a little but (james norton ❤ )

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    • Oh yes, that was a beautiful scene with Paul Dano! And yes, I do agree that James Norton is nice, although I have not fallen head over heels with him… not yet…
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

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  9. […] don’t think I’ll ever be a Lily James fan (I wasn’t too fond of her in War & Peace and I really didn’t like her in Cinderella) but in this, for the first time, I liked her; she […]

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