War and Peace (2007) Costume Movie Review

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War and Peace (2007) features romance, Russia, and Regency costumes. This adaptation of the novel by Leo Tolstoy has a surprisingly decent budget, good costumes, and great acting, all of which help to outweigh some drippy plot points. Here is my War and Peace (2007) costume movie review!

I’m not sure why, but I had no idea this existed until I recently found it for rental on iTunes. It stars talented French actress Clemence Poesy, which made me take a shot on it. I’m glad I did, because it was nice to watch something where I didn’t know what was going to happen (I admit, I’ve never read the book or seen any of the adaptations).

It’s a four-part miniseries that was a Russian, French, German, Polish, and Italian production. It’s mostly in English, except for church sermons randomly in Russian. The story, in general, follows some aristocratic Russian families from 1805 through the War of 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, getting as far as Moscow.

It has an international cast: the aforementioned Poesy, plus Alessio Boni, Malcolm McDowell, Brenda Blethyn, and Valentina Cervi. Given the “War” part of the title, there’s a LOT of scenes that are mostly men in uniform … and I was pleasantly pleased that most of said men were HOT HOT HOT:

War and Peace (2007)

Alessio Boni as Andrei Bolkonsky. HAWT. He has a very Hugh Jackman look.

War and Peace (2007)

Ken Duken as Anatole Kuragin (left) and Benjamin Sadler as Dolokhov (right). Easy on the eyes.

Overall, the acting was very strong by all of the cast. The characters were believable, even if I sometimes rolled my eyes at their choices.

War and Peace (2007)

Clemence Poesy gave a strong performance, even if I quibbled with some aspects of her character (more on that later).

 

It was actually filmed in Russia, which made for some gorgeous locations:

War and Peace (2007) War and Peace (2007)

 

While I’m sure advances in CGI technology should get part of the credit, it was nice to see a costume movie with war scenes that actually had the budget to put enough soldiers on screen for the battle scenes. Although I don’t really care much about fighting scenes, I do tend to scoff at productions that seem to have about 15 extras, which they try to hide through a lot of tight closeups.

The costumes were designed by Enrica Biscossi, an Italian designer. Overall, I think she did a good job! Few of the women’s costumes were OMG FABULOUS, but they were nicely done and correct for the period:

War and Peace (2007)

Brenda Blethyn’s older character had touches of 18th century to her hair and dresses, but without being over the top — she was still in high-waisted Regency styles. I think sometimes designers can go over the top with the whole “I’m wearing styles that are 40 years out of date” thing.

War and Peace (2007)

As the bad girl, Violante Placido as Helene Kuragina got the most interesting dresses.

Helene got all the interesting colored dresses.

Helene got all the colored (non-white) dresses.

Can you tell who's the Bad Girl here?

Can you tell who’s the Bad Girl here?

Helene also had the best wedding dress.

Helene even had the best wedding dress.

War and Peace (2007)

Most of the rest of the women’s dresses were nicely done, although few of them made you go “oooo.” One exception was Natasha’s white and gold ball gown (right).

Another shot of the standout gown — Natasha’s white and gold ballgown.

Some of the more typical women's dresses. Countess Rostova (right) had a lovely comb that she frequently wore.

Some of the more typical, “fine/whatever” women’s dresses. Countess Rostova (left) had a lovely comb that she frequently wore.

Maria's wedding dress.

Maria’s wedding dress.

War and Peace (2007)

Countess Rostova had a great bonnet, which is only partially visible here.

Occasionally there were some fur hats and coats, a nice Russian-specific touch.

Given how much screen time the military men got, it’s a good thing that their costumes were REALLY well done. It doesn’t hurt that military uniforms of this era are HOT HOT HOT.

War and Peace (2007)

If I pay extra, will they make out?

War and Peace (2007)

I like a man in uniform, especially when it’s the Regency era!

War and Peace (2007)

Pierre had FABULOUS built-up collars, and a gorgeous lounging robe.

War and Peace (2007)

Yes, I will happily watch while you prance around in your gold braid and tight pants and philosophize about how War Is Meaningful and Deep.

 

SPOILER ALERT

And now, some SPOILER-y complaints about the plot. Some of it is Tolstoy’s fault, others may be the filmmakers’ fault in that they didn’t sell me on some aspects of the story.

I liked Natasha in the first half of the story, even if she was the Regency Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I did get irritated in the first scene, when she was complaining about not being able to breathe in her corset. It’s such a stupid, incorrect, overdone trope that women couldn’t breathe in corsets. I also scoffed at the response, that it would make her waist look small — what waist? This is the Regency era!

War and Peace (2007)

Not the scene in question, but, corset!

As the plot progressed, I got relatively irritated with how much Natasha’s family cosseted her. Look, clearly your daughter is kind of an idiot. She dumps Really Hot Guy because he’s busy saving the country, and now she’s sad. WAH. POOR NATASHA. LET US TREAT HER VERY GENTLY BECAUSE SHE IS S.P.E.C.I.A.L. WITH LOTS OF MAGICAL UNICORN DUST FLOATING AROUND HER.

And in line with that … should we really stick Prince Andrei in a carriage and let him bleed to death and/or get gangrenous simply so we can spare Natasha the heart-fluttering news that her Hot Ex got shot? And speaking of which, perhaps the best option for nursing a gun shot victim isn’t just holding his hand and sparkling at him, but instead cleaning his wound and changing dressings and trying to find a doctor.

Finally, while I liked Pierre and thought he was sweet and interesting, I so didn’t buy that Natasha was actually into him. It seemed like they had a deep, brother/sister relationship, then he decided she was The One. Meanwhile, she found The One, stupidly dumped him for The Cad, and then settled for The Alive Guy.

War and Peace (2007)

“Our dear, special, perfect Natasha. Fairies fly out of her butt!”

Oh, and Petya was annoying. I was happy to see him die, the little shit. I’m sure in the novel it’s all very heart-wrenching, but in the miniseries all I could think was, “You’re 12. Shut up.”

 

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About the author

Kendra

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Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

4 Responses

  1. Tinny

    I admit to not having seen the film, so I’m only supposing here that the sermons mentioned would take place in a Russian Orthodox church. In which case they were not “randomly in Russian” but quite obviously in “Church-Slavonic” (sorry, I’m not familiar with the exact name of the language in English), which is not the same as Russian, and not necessarily even entirely intelligible even if you speak Russsian. Hence, completely understandably, church services that would be performed in a different language than the one otherwise spoken, were performed in a different language. If this had been in Italy, the pirests would still have spoken latin, no matter how much English or Italian the characters speak otherwise.

    Reply
    • Lionel Foster Msulirah

      Nice analogy.I like the way you use your language and non the less your diction and word demeanor.

      Reply
  2. Allan Provost

    Talented Clemence Poesy? She was terrible, spoke too low, and was all wrong for Natasha. I don’t even think she’s that pretty. Worst casting decision since Gina McKee in the Forsyte Saga. Clemence was laughably bad.

    Reply

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