TV Drama: War and Peace

As it’s been a while since my last film review – namely due to my decision not to watch certain films I was previously anticipating in cinema – and so I thought  I would just insert a random TV Drama Review for you. The BBC’s 6 part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Get Excited.

War and Peace is an avid readers ‘white whale’, in that it is over 1,200 pages of dense text, translated from its original language of Russian. Stunning visuals aside, this adaptation should help provide some context and help in ease of read should you one day attempt the novel.

Set amidst a brooding war between Russia and France between 1805 and 1813, War and Peace focuses around the lives of three main characters belonging to Russia’s Elite.


Count Pierre Bezukhov (Paul Dano) – Although Pierre grew up around the likes of Counts and Princes, he was never expected to reach their ranks. Educated, kind and a little awkward, he suddenly has to navigate the customs and delicacies of society when he inherits his title. Count after his father names him as heir – despite him being a bastard child. Paul Dano’s depiction of Pierre Bezukhov was a work of art. He was an inspiring and determined character and my favourite.

What I liked so much about Pierre is that he probably grew the most, in thoughts, in practice, and in understanding. Despite his initial childishness and naivety, he comes into his own, doing what he can to better his life and help others do the same.

Countess Natasha Rostova (Lily James) – I think one of the fundamental issues of this characters depiction, is that she is supposed to be very young when the book starts off; Twelve to be exact. Lily James on the other hand is Twenty-Six, and although she does look young for her age – she doesn’t look that young. I think because of that reason it was hard to really relate to her character in the early stages of the show.

Natasha Rostova is an untouched flower, unsullied by the manipulations and scandals of the elite, close to her family and lover of all things. She is constantly jubilant, a believer in true love and blissfully ignorant of real life. It is only in the second half of the series that it becomes easier to relate to her, and although Lily James did a good enough job of prancing around pretending to be twelve, it wasn’t until Natasha Rostova grew up both in age and mind, that Lily James was able to deliver a convincing performance.

Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton) – Despite having a wife with a child on the way, Bolkonsky has used the war with France as a means of escape. In conversation with his close (and seemingly only) friend Pierre Buzukhov he talks about how he is disgusted with the shackles of society life; the luxuries, the dances, the clothes, and his wife whom he no longer loves. Bolkonsky is essentially on a suicide mission, deciding that the only way to escape the life he was born into is to die at war.

Andrei Bolkonsky is a selfish character  he mostly cannot see beyond his own self loathing to think about anybody else, despite how many chances God has given him to live. James Norton played him well, seeming to add a Mr Darcy air to the character in his stiffness, manner of speaking, and resolute judgement. The character of Andrei Bolkonsky had the least amount of development in my opinion, (of course I can only comment on the TV Adaptation) as it seemed that by the end of his journey he had learnt nothing and had scarcely changed at all.

nikolai war and peace

I think the war created a good backdrop as it almost ebbed and flowed with the characters emotions and journey’s, like slowly watching the tide come in not realising you were in any danger until your back hits the wall. The first two episodes moved very slowly, it was still a good watch especially as you had a subconscious awareness that it was essentially necessary in order to grasp the who’s who of the extensive number of players that came and went. Episodes three to five was where the core of the story took place (and were probably the best episodes), and episode six deserves to be judged in it’s own right as it was 82 minutes – as opposed to the standard 60 minutes of its predecessors. It made of a good round up of all events, yet despite the length of the episode, certain aspects still felt rushed.

I won’t deny it; I love a good period drama, and I really enjoyed this series. The idea of taking thick literary works of art and adapting it for the small screen for all to enjoy is something I hope to see more of from the BBC, and from any other TV production company that can rise to the artistic and financial challenge. I will still attempt to read the book one day, but for now this was a great experience, almost like watching an illustration of Neoclassical artwork dance around your screen.


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