War & Peace: An Epic of Soviet Cinema

War_and_Peace_poster,_1967

It’s hard to do cinematic justice to any good novel, let alone the greatest of Russia’s many great novels, Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace. But Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk somehow managed to pull it off. Reviewing Bondarchuk’s film back in 1969, a young Roger Ebert wrote:

“War and Peace” is the definitive epic of all time. It is hard to imagine that circumstances will ever again combine to make a more spectacular, expensive, and — yes — splendid movie. Perhaps that’s just as well; epics seem to be going out of favor, replaced instead by smaller, more personal films. Perhaps this greatest of the epics will be one of the last, bringing the epic form to its ultimate statement and at the same time supplying the epitaph.

No corners were cut, and no expenses spared, in making the film. Indeed, the film (available on DVD here) was made “at a cost of $100,000,000, with a cast of 120,000, all clothed in authentic uniforms, and the Red Army was mobilized to recreate Napoleon’s battles exactly (it is claimed) as they happened.” What’s more, 35,000 costumes were made for the production, and many Soviet museums contributed artifacts for the production design. That’s staggering, even by today’s standards.

Released in four parts between 1965 and 1967, the Academy Award-winning film runs more than seven hours and you can now find it playing on YouTube. You can watch Part 1 here, and here you have Part 2Part 3 and Part 4. And if you need subtitles, click CC at the bottom of the videos. The film is, of course, listed in our collection of Free Movies Online.

Thanks Ammar for the heads up on this film!



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  1. palisadesk says . . . | June 18, 2011 / 5:04 pm

    Hey, thanks for the update on this film. I remember seeing it in a theater in Washington, D.C. (I believe it was around 1970) and being quite impressed with how faithful it was to the book and how UN-Hollywood it was: when Natasha cried, her face got all red and swollen like a real person’s does, she didn’t look glamorous. My friend who went with me was a Russian specialist with the federal govt. and found the Russian settings, historical details and so on to be quite accurate as well.

    It is a LOOOOOONG film — IIRC, it was shown in two three-hour blocks with a dinner break in between.

    I’ll definitely get the DVD.

  2. Rob G says . . . | December 28, 2011 / 5:31 pm

    I cannot get any of the parts to work. Any houghts?

  3. Laurie says . . . | April 24, 2012 / 4:40 pm

    Am trying to watch War and Peace — instructions say click on CC for subtitles — have not been able to find it at bottom of video as indicated — can someone help me get English subtitles for this film?

  4. Bev says . . . | July 12, 2012 / 7:35 pm

    What a fantastic movie. Thank you for sharing it. Absolutely beautiful.

  5. Mary Ann says . . . | January 23, 2013 / 1:54 pm

    Saw it on tv in the 1970′s in 5 parts, one each nite, and loved it. finally found the tape on ebay which wasnt good quality but finally got the dvd. a good thing to watch when you are home sick or in because of inclement weather. loved it and try watching it each year.

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