Friday, January 08, 2016

Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' New BBC Adaptation (2016)


BBC 1 (TV) started a new TV adaptation of Tolstoy's epic 'War and Peace' (by the way, not rpt not the longest novel ever) with Lily James (Downton's Lady Rose) as Natasha, Paul Dano as Pierre and James Norton as Andrei. (article about the cast in Radio Times)

Actors playing leading characters admitted to not having read the book before, and Andrew Davies (script) and Tom Harper (director) skipped a few crucial bits in the opening episode.

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, it’s a 6-part series. Prince Andrei, a central character, was only sketched through his dislike of women, while his dislike of the high society and his ideas on Napoleon have all but disappeared;  and with Pierre-Helene they modified the entrapment scene, leaving out the most exciting moment, Pierre's feeble declaration of love, in French, which they had in the 1972 TV series with Anthony Hopkins.

Rebecca Front (wikipedia about her) as Anna Mikhailovna Drubetskaya, a very minor character in the novel, definitely upstaged all others in the first episode in her confrontation with Prince Vassily (Stephen Rea, wikipedia). Front, a very well-known British comedian and actress, has such a strong presence that everybody else around her somehow disappears into the shadows.

Some viewers were also puzzled by the skull on Natasha's cleavage seen on a very steampunk promotional poster (here). What is it? Steampunk or not, it may be interpreted, at least jokingly,
as a surreptitious hint on Pierre, him becoming a free mason in the course of the book, with the skull, or Adam's head, being the masons’ secret symbol. Tolstoy devotes much attention to masons in the novel. Let's see how the makers of the film tackled this, or not tackled at all.

Pierre and Helene entrappment scene ("Je vous aime") from the 1972 series —

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