War changes everything. Anyone who has ever fought in a war or let a loved one go to defend their country on the battlefield understands this change.
Leo Tolstoy’s timeless (and extremely long novel), War and Peace made it to the small screen last night. Airing on three different cable channels, War And Peace tells the story of how the conflict between Russia and France under Napoleon’s rule in the early 19th century forever changes the lives of five aristocratic families.
Pierre Bezukhov (Paul Dano), is the nebbish-y, eccentric and illegitimate son who suddenly finds that after his father’s death, he has inherited his father’s estate and is suddenly on the radar of every single female and matchmaking parent. Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton) is the handsome, but disillusioned prince who goes to fight for emperor and country. Married to a woman he ought to care for, but does not, Andrei leaves his pregnant wife in the country with his father and sister while he goes to fight. Natasha Rostova (Lily James) may not be the prettiest girl in the room, but she is full of emotion, romantic ideals and energy.
I should state that I have never read War and Peace, so my review is strictly based on the first episode. With a screen play by veteran writer Andrew Davies and a cast that happily fulfills any Anglophile’s wish list for a dream cast, War & Peace joins the very long list of screen adaptations that one hopes only bring a greater spotlight to the novel and encourage greater readership of said novel.
I was drawn in by the cast, but it is the story of war and how lives change because of war that I predict bring in viewers for the next three episodes.
And of course, Janeites (and anyone who has a healthy obsession with British drama and/or Masterpiece Theater) will easily recognize actors whose work they have loved before. Outside of Lily James and James Norton, there are several Austen actors and one actress who I was sad to see leave my screen when her character was written out of Mr. Selfridge last year. Who they are, you will have to watch (or just go to the IMDB page).
Do I recommend it? Yes.
War & Peace will be airing the next three Mondays on A&E, The History Channel and Lifetime. Check your local listings for specific time and channel.