War and Peace is a portrait of Russia and her people, caught up in the swirling and irresistible tides of history during the Napoleonic Era. Director Sergei Bondarchuk's Oscar-winner flawlessly re-creates Tolstoy's epic m... more »asterpiece, capturing not only the most minute historical details, but also the emotion, essence, and atmosphere of the classic novel. Hailed as the definitive marriage between literature and film, it took five years to complete, costing over $100,000,000. It is estimated that a film of this magnitude would cost over 1 billion dollars today, making this the most expensive film ever made. In Russian with English subtitles.« less
Patrick W. Crabtree | Lucasville, OH USA | 07/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I purchased this film, I wasn't paying proper attention, thinking that I was buying yet another version of Tolstoy's famous work; however, it is, in fact, the 1968 Bondarchuk epic which I already owned in widescreen (letterbox) and which has now been packaged and edited by another distributor. Yet, in the end, it's quite a different film!
First of all, this version has been "panned and scanned" to better facilitate a regular screen television -- so, this product is what we generally refer to as "full-screen". Second, there are a few editing differences including some scenes that were not in the widescreen (letterbox) version and misssing a few scenes that were. This does not radically change the film but it was certainly interesting to observe.
Finally, the voiceovers and subtitles are COMPLETELY different, being superior to the original widescreen (letterbox) version. Many more conversation parts are picked up in this version and the translation is far superior. In some cases, the two translations are quite different, this one aligning more with the highly recommended Maude translation of the original book.
In the end, I'm glad to own both versions, as each has its advantages and disadvantages. In picture quality, this one cannot compare to the widescreen (letterbox) version as the clarity was somewhat compromised by the blow-up of the negatives during the "pan and scan" process. Still, it's quite watchable.
As far as the story goes, this is one of the finest war films ever produced. The Hollywood version of War and Peace starring Henry Fonda is a pathetic joke compared to this Russian masterpiece. You can reference my further descriptions of both the book and the widescreen (letterbox) film version on this site for more details concerning the actual story.
I have two final comments: 1. Read the book prior to watching either version of Bondarchuk's epic and you'll be much more gratified in your understanding of the story of Napoleon's invasion of Austria and later of Moscow. 2. If you own a regular TV then this is the version that you want. If you have a widescreen TV and already own the widescreen (letterbox) version, I highly recommend that you grab this one too!"
"I had the opportunity to peruse this Kultur DVD edition of "War and Peace" enough to evaluate its presentation. Firstly, it's not letterboxed, but full-frame. The opening title sequence only is letterboxed to some extent so as not to cut off all the titles, and this looks as though the original aspect ratio is not particularly wide to begin with. So while not a great deal of picture is cut off from the sides, there is some missing. The print is a good one, and the beauty and power of the film come through, but it does not appear to have been restored to any great extent. This means that the color intensity, contrast, and brightness of the image fluctuates from scene to scene, and sometimes even within one scene (reel changes, perhaps?). The image throughout is a bit soft-focus, and it benefits greatly if you turn up the sharpness control on your monitor. There does not seem to be a great deal of blemishes, dirt, or damage, though.The English subtitles are printed on the film itself, and therefore not removable. In the scenes where French is spoken, there is a voice superimposed on the soundtrack translating what is being said into Russian, which is of no interest to the English-speaking viewers who will be watching this DVD. In these cases, you have an actor speaking French, an additional voice speaking Russian, and an English subtitle simultaneously, which is distracting to say the least. It's hard to imagine why a print with this feature was chosen, unless it was the absolute best-looking print available.That brings up the subject of the alternate issue of this film due at the end of December from the Russian Cinema Council (Ruscico). Judging from past Ruscico DVD releases, it may well be a restored, archive-quality print (hopefully letterboxed). Ruscico releases appear at a very slow rate, but when the do they are worth waiting for, which is what you may want to do.The film still makes a stunning impact, even in this less than perfect presentation. If you prefer full-frame presentation, you may even prefer this one. It seems to me, however, that most cinemaphiles whose interests are arcane enough to extend to this film would want it presented in its original aspect ratio, in an edition as close to the source material as possible. Those people may well prefer to see what Ruscico offers."
At last, a decent version of Bondarchuk's WAR AND PEACE!
J. Steffen | Decatur, GA USA | 03/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was fortunate enough to obtain an advance copy of the Ruscico 5-disc box set of WAR AND PEACE recently. Image Entertainment has acquired U.S. distribution rights for it; after some delay, it is scheduled to street in June. The amount of care put into this particular version is obvious. The widescreen anamorphic transfer looks as good as can be expected, considering the condition in which the film has been preserved and the poor quality Soviet stock on which the film was originally shot. The kind of extensive clean-up and digital restoration we are used to from companies like Criterion would have been prohibitively expensive for such a long and poorly preserved film like this. If you keep that in mind while watching the DVD, you'll be satisfied indeed. The sound has also been meticulously restored. If that weren't enough, the set is full of all sorts of interesting supplemental features, including an interview with Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, the film's composer. An appropriately massive DVD set for the most massive film of all. On the other hand, Kultur's currently available DVD of Bondarchuk's WAR AND PEACE is a big disappointment. While it also contains the full-length, 403-minute version, it's the same old pan & scan transfer that they used for the VHS over a decade ago. Not only are the sides of the film's original widescreen image lopped off, the top and bottom of the image are slightly cropped too--as a result, the DVD displays only about 50% of the image that we are intended to see, effectively ruining the film's striking visual compositions. The 5-disc set produced by Ruscico and to be released by Image Entertainment is substantially more expensive, but it's the only way to go if you want to see this film properly."
"In a class by itself"
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 08/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This has to be the best book to film adaptation ever made, and certainly one of the most faithful to the source...but buyer beware ! The dubbed version is one to avoid. I find the musical sound of the Russian language adds to the enjoyment of this magnificent film, and the subtitles are a beautiful translation of Tolstoy's massive tale of complex charaters, caught up in the tragic events of their time.6 hours and 43 minutes long, it took over 5 years to make and at a huge cost (over 100 million in 1968 dollars). Writer/Director/Actor Sergei Bondarchuk tried, and I think succeeded, in bringing a taste of this era to the screen...the details in the sets, costumes, and monumental battle scenes, are simply astounding.The acting is superb, down to the smallest bit part. Bondarchuk is a magnificent Pierre, Ludmila Savelyeva luminous as Natasha, and Vyacheslav Tikhonov, with his perfect profile and lean looks is exactly as I pictured Prince Andrei when I read the book many years ago.This is the grandest of epics, and can't be compared to any other film in existence. Bondarchuk's poetic vision of Tolstoy's masterpiece is thought provoking, and very moving. It's well worth the many hours spent with it, and it gets better with repeated viewing !"
Good news...bad news!
George W. Endress | Plano, TX | 12/03/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The good news is that Kultur put this superb masterpiece out on DVD. The BAD news is that this epic film was NOT digitally restored. This is a pan-and-scan of a poor print. The original aspect ratio (2.40:1) of the 70mm Super Sovscope is gone, and so is much of the spectacle of the original film. They did manage to keep the 4 part original release sequence, although somewhat shorter. I'm waiting for a restored version that will do justice to the best film version of a timeless classic.
P.S. A second release on DVD has just now become available. On 5 discs, digitally mastered into anamorphic widescreen from the 70mm original elements and it's absolutely gorgeous (5 stars). Look for it!!"