In anticipation of its exclusive run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from February 15-21, Janus Films premiered the trailer for Sergey Bondarchuk’s Restored epic War And Peace. Winner of the 1969 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Bondarchuk’s War And Peace sets the changing fortunes of several aristocratic families against the backdrop of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
The film is as epic as it gets. Clocking in at over 7 hours, it was the most expensive Soviet film in history (more than $70 million after inflation), it is also perhaps the greatest epic ever made: an exquisite production of spectacle and realism, the political and personal, that endures as a monumental achievement in filmmaking.
Check out the restoration trailer for the film below:
As Roger Ebert is quoted saying in his original 1969 review of War And Peace:
“It is easy enough to praise director Sergei Bondarchuk for his thundering battle scenes, or his delicate ballroom scenes, or the quality of his actors. But these were almost to be expected. What is extraordinary about “War and Peace” is that Bondarchuk was able to take the enormous bulk of Leo Tolstoy’s novel and somehow transform it into this great chunk of film without losing control along the way.”
The Janus Films logo that precedes the trailer is a big hint to collector’s that this epic will be hitting the Criterion Collection eventually. A stacked 7+-hour package, complete with some great supplemental features may be the only way many of us will get to see this restoration outside of NYC.
One of the world’s oldest and largest film production companies, Russian studio Mosfilm, set up in 1923, was the powerhouse of film production during the Soviet Union era, producing more than 3,000 films. Mosfilm has been a pioneer in the field of restoration of classic films, restoring around 7-8 titles per year, using intensive frame-by-frame restoration.
In an interview with Variety, Mosfilm’s Karen Shakhnazarov talked about the economic challenges of restoring films such as War And Peace: “The problem is that when you start restoring a film, you never know how long it will take. For instance, Eisenstein’s Ivan The Terrible took 8 months, because it was in very poor condition. For films in relatively good condition, it can take around 2 months.” War And Peace‘s restoration was first announced back in December 2017, suggesting that the Russian epic required a lot of tender, love, and care.
Check out the official synopsis for War And Peace:
At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet film industry set out to prove it could outdo Hollywood with a production that would dazzle the world: a titanic, awe-inspiring adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic tome in which the fates of three souls—the blundering, good-hearted Pierre; the heroically tragic Prince Andrei; and the radiant, tempestuous Natasha—collide amid the tumult of the Napoleonic Wars. Employing a cast of thousands and an array of innovative camera techniques, director Sergei Bondarchuk conjures a sweeping vision of grand balls that glitter with rococo beauty and breathtaking battles that overwhelm with their expressionistic power. As a statement of Soviet cinema’s might, War and Peace succeeded wildly, garnering the Academy Award for best foreign-language film and setting a new standard for epic moviemaking.
War And Peace is a presentation by Mosfilm Cinema Concern. A digital restoration image by image of the picture and sound using a 2K scanner. Producer of the restoration: Karen Shakhnazarov.
Sources: MosFilm, FSLC, Janus Films