Friday, December 28, 2012

War And Peace Marathon

Back in November I spent a day watching a marathon screening of War and Peace at the Russian Embassy. I spent the whole entire day because this was a screening of a four-part eight-hour Russian version. As a reward for sitting through all the way till the end we each received a pin, I've never been so proud.
Yes, I may have been more excited to get this button than my college degree, it was hard earned.  
Leo Tolstoy published his epic-ly-long-novel War and Peace in 1869 and then Hollywood made it into a normal-movie-length-film in 1956 staring the-unbeatable-Audry-Hepburn. To condense it down to a just 208 minutes the Hollywood version focuses on Natasha and her boy drama. In response the Soviet Union was all "aw snap we can so do better than that" and they set about making an epic-ly-long-film of War and Peace which premiered in 1966 (with another part released each of the following 4 years -- HP/LOTR-style).

It was a massive prestige project for the USSR. Massive. To a scale you can only achieve when you have a dictator backing your film project giving you carte-blanche and a specifically designated cavalry unit.  It was so massively expensive that it is still the most expensive film project to this day. There were 300 speaking roles and thousands upon thousands of extras. They also hold the record for the most people in a battle scene. Which is both obvious and massively impressive to see.  The battle is equal and opposite of Brave Heart with its "Battle of the Bridge" all bridge-less-and-in-a-field-because-that-is-easier-to-film. All the battle scenes were filmed at the actual historical locations and the French army retreats down the same roads they really used to leave Russia back in the day. And that's to say nothing of the dancing!

You have to forgive the trailer for being from the 60s
and trust me that the film was much better.
The event was organized by one of my very favorite-most-interesting-history-professors from AU (he taught "Cold War and the Spy Novel" = best history class ever). This was such a fancy-pants event the Russian Ambassador to the United States gave the introduction to the film. (My thoughts were something along the lines of Dude! How legit!" and "Wow I'm not grown up enough for this!") Brilliant part about living in DC - free awesomeness. And free awesomeness at the Russian Embassy! It was a really fun way to spend the day. All fancy-smancy with waiters in bow-ties and official Russian security -- who look exactly like you would assume big tough Russian security guards look like. I got lots of yummy food like doughnuts and beet stew and eclairs and wonderfulness.
Using my half-a-semester-o'-Russian-skills I able to understood greetings, family relations, and "I knows" or "I don't knows" and I could tell every now and then that the subtitles did not quite match up with the Russian -- I was pretty pleased with myself. Plus my free parking on the street did not result in a ticket or having my car towed away, so I was very pleased about that as well. Now that I've seen it my inner-lit-major is going to make me read the novel of War and Peace, just as soon as I finish all three of the books I'm currently reading. And I leave you with the beginning, end, and moral of the film:

 "The simplest ideas lead to the greatest consequences. My idea, in its entirety, is that if vile people unite and constitute a force, then decent people are obliged to do likewise; just that."

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