Posted in Book vs adaptation

War and Peace: Book vs. 2016 Miniseries

 

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At a glittering society party in St Petersburg in 1805, conversations are dominated by the prospect of war. Terror swiftly engulfs the country as Napoleon’s army marches on Russia, and the lives of three young people are changed forever. The stories of quixotic Pierre, cynical Andrey and impetuous Natasha interweave with a huge cast, from aristocrats and peasants, to soldiers and Napoleon himself.

I already talked about how much I love the book in my review of War and Peace so now I’m on a mission to watch every adaptation I can find. The first one is the 2016 BBC miniseries in six parts. It stars Paul Dano as Pierre, Lily James as Natasha and James Norton as Andrei.

It’s difficult to adapt a book as big as War and Peace. Some characters have to be forgotten, some storylines never happen and the pace of the story is much faster. I’m glad I read the book first, knowing more details about the characters made the show more enjoyable to me.

Paul Dano is perfect in the role of Pierre Bezukhov; from the first scene he’s clumsy, intelligent, passionate, gentle; his friendship with Andrei is one of my favorite parts of the story. Pierre’s awkwardness is easy to identify with and I never felt that more than while reading about his engagement to Helene. Andrei was more sympathetic in the show, not knowing all of his thoughts helped me there. His relationship with Natasha happens quite quickly, like all other relationships in the story except Pierre and Natasha. Lily James plays Natasha beautifully. It’s still difficult to believe that in the first episode she’s 13 years old, but it’s not easy to find an actress who can convincingly go from 13 to 28 in a span of six episodes.

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Something I don’t quite understand is why did the relationship between Anatole and Helene go from ‘there’s a rumor that Anatole is in love with his sister’ to an actual incestous relationship in the show? That was not necessary at all, it just makes the characters seem worse than they actually are. But Helene and Anatole are still some of my favorite character and Tuppence Middleton and Callum Turner were great in their roles.

The epilogue in the show is much more idealistic than in the book. I like that change, it’s nice that there’s a version of the story with a really happy ending. I wish the show was longer – 10 episodes would have been great. More time for supporting characters (Dolokhov especially), more time to show character development in a way that doesn’t seem too quick and more time for me to enjoy the story. I can’t ever get enough of period dramas.

 

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