As someone who’s read Leo Tolstoy’s masterful anti-war novel, War and Peace, several times — the latest only last year — and seen the film version of it, I was really looking forward to watching a mini-series adaptation. I mean, honestly, how can you fit 1500+ pages of a complex literary novel with multiple storylines into a 2-3 hour film? So 6 hours for a mini-series sounded pretty good to me. Though I still wondered who, in the great panoply of characters, was going to get short-shrifted.
As far as I can tell, everyone except the few playing the youngest characters got tossed.
Even then, however, the story made no sense.
Or, as Tom so succinctly put it, “This is War and Peace of Crap.”
No, he hasn’t read the book, and I think he was looking to the mini-series as a way of permanently avoiding ever having to read it.
There seemed to be lots of important people there in the cast, but for the life of me, I couldn’t recall who Anna Pavlova (Gillian Anderson) was in the novel. The mini-series didn’t jog my memory. She was only in a few scenes in e1, which in the USofA is being shown in four 2-hour episodes. Since the original BBC production is only 6 hours, that should have warned me right away that there were going to be 2 hours of commercials.
I just hadn’t realized that 90% of those commercial were going to be aired in the first episode.
Here’s how the conversation at our house went last night.
“I believe it’s a tiara.”
“A tiara? What is she? A princess?”
“I’m pretty sure she is.”
“Where’s the king?”
“Russia had a Tsar.”
“And they killed him. So why is she still a princess?”
Tom: “Why doesn’t Gillian like the kid with the glasses?”
“He likes Napoleon.”
“What’s wrong with Napoleon?”
“This book is about his invasion of Russia during the War.”
“So, why don’t they like him?”
Tom: “Now she likes the kid with the glasses? What happened?”
“He inherited all his father’s money?”
“His father died?”
“Don’t you remember the scene with the two women fighting over the leather folder that one of them stole from under the old man’s pillow? It contained the new will, acknowledging Pierre as his sole heir.”
“So, you’re saying his father died?”
“That’s usually when wills get made public, so, yes, Pierre’s father died. Now all the society people who ignored him before want their daughters to marry him. Especially Helene’s father (Stephen Rea).”
“That was the dissolute Pierre. He’s one of the characters that morally improves in the book.”
Tom (snorting): “Fat chance it’ll happen in this thing. Nudge me when this round of commercials is over.”
“This is from the Russian perspective.”
“Yeah, but where’s Napoleon?”
“I don’t know, but I’m guessing if we see him, he’ll be wearing the tri-corner hat of the French Republic.”
“What are those hats these guys are wearing? Clown hats?”
“I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of the uniforms…”
“How can they hear anything with their ears covered?”
“Canons are pretty loud.”
“This is the stupidest war I’ve ever seen.”
Tom: “Oh, yeah, all three of you.”
“That it’s blue.”
“Wow. So profound. Is he the one who left his pregnant wife because he was so unhappy in his marriage that he wanted to go to the war and die?”
“I’m not sure…”
“You’ve read the book. Recently, too.”
“I cannot remember how all these characters are related to each other. As I recall, the pregnant wife dies in childbirth, and the husband didn’t really die, though everyone thinks he did…”
“You already told me you weren’t going to watch the rest of this.”
“Don’t you still have to warn people when you’re about to tell them what happens?”
Tom: “Wake me when this round of commercials is over. Unless I’m snoring…”
Tom (sitting up straighter): “Anthony Hopkins is in this? Why didn’t you tell me? I love Anthony Hopkins.”
“With her brother.”
“The guy with the glasses.”
“I thought you said Anthony Hopkins was playing him.”
“She’s having sex. I told you to wake me up.”
“You were snoring.”
“You’re supposed to wake me up for the good parts. You know that.”
“When do we get to see Napoleon?” said Tom.