Sunday, January 24, 2016

War and Peace.

BBC 2016 series reviewed in New Yorker

Louis Menand in New Yorker compares the BBC 1972 adaptation with the currently running one.

It is a good review, and a very good comparison with the 1972 version. 

It also explains why secondary characters are so prominent, to the detriment of the main ones. He put a finger on Tolstoy's snobbishness bur missed Tolstoy's mysogyny. Didn't fit in his picture, probably. (photo: an oak tree in winter, here in France. In the film, they've chosen to show a tree with a completely rotten inside.)

Here is a quote:
"Does the new series get the novel? Not really. It’s a costume drama, “Downton Abbey” goes to Moscow, one of those “Masterpiece Theatre”-type shows that, despite the toniness and the high-end production values, is basically about the trials and tribulations of getting exceptionally attractive and ridiculously rich people properly paired off. Within the confines of that slightly soapy ambition, the series is credible and, at moments, quite moving. But it’s much more interested in Anatole flirting at the opera than in Pierre eating the potato. It gives Tolstoy’s big existential question—if we are only tiny bits of life being blown around in a great cosmic storm, and have no control over what happens to us, what can it possibly mean to live in the right way?—a pass."

I can't agree more. Some nitpicking on the article. 

"War and Peace" is not the longest novel, Richardson's "Clarissa", for example, is longer in word count in English. 

Serfs were emancipated in Russia in 1861, not in 1862 as mentioned in the article.

The hunt scene was not omitted, it was in Episode 4 just now, and beautifully done.

Re. Chaikovsky's "1812" vs "La Marseillaise", Menand writes: "If we want to hear music on the Fourth of July that is actually about liberty and democracy, we should play “La Marseillaise,” not the “1812 Overture.” (I don’t see this happening, somehow.)" Good point, but "La Marseillaise" is included in 1812. You listen to both, the French national anthem and the Russian version of "God, Save the King." Chaikovsky used La Marseillaise as a theme for the advancing French. Towards the end it's drowned by God Save the King (Tsar) and then come the famous bells chimes, cannonade and the triumphal march.

This last musical quote also explains, partly, why they chose to play it at the height of the Cold War in 1974 (in fact, it was the height of Brezhnev-Nixon's detente): it was hardly ever played in the Soviet Union for the simple reason that this great piece of patriotic umpapah includes the tsarist anthem. Popular in the West, it was a no-no for the ruling communists.

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