War and Peace; Drama, USA/ Italy, 1956; D: King Vidor, S: Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Mel Ferrer, Vittorio Gassman
Russia, 1805. Coiled Pierre Bezukov is surprised when his father, the count who never married his mother, dies and leaves all his property to him. At the same time, Andrei Bolkonski leaves his wife and goes to Austerlitz to fight against the invading troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte. When he returns, his wife dies at childbirth. He is devastated. Later on, he is engaged to Natasha Rostova, but she goes crazy over the womanizer Anatole. Pierre and Sonya manage to bring some sense to her, but too late, since Andrei breaks the engagement. In 1812, Napoleon's army heads towards Moscow and the citizens are forced to evacuate. Andrei dies, Pierre gets captured by the French, but gets released and unites with Natasha.
The first US adaptation of the Tolstoy's legendary epic novel, "War and Peace", which encompassed a whole spectrum of human life in only one book, nominated for 3 Oscars and 4 Golden Globes, in director King Vidor's hands became shorter, more romantic and more "Hollywoodized" than it was necessary, whereas Henry Fonda may not be an ideal choice to play Pierre Bezukov, yet in the meandering between kitsch and art the latter still managed to outweigh the first. The 3,5 hour running time was executed fluently and ambitiously, whereas Audrey Hepburn is brilliant as Natasha, actually so influential that this version influenced the looks and settings of the twice as longer - and better - Russian adaptation of the novel by Bondarchuk, filmed a decade later.Grade:+++