67 thoughts on “War & Peace (2016) Recap, Ep. 1 part 2: Petulant Boys, Naughty Girls, and Hot Tsars

  1. LMFAO! (In my head, because I should be working) Thank you so much for the entertaining plot/costume recaps on this series so I DON’T HAVE TO WATCH IT. I would argue your recaps are probably more entertaining than the show itself.

      1. Maybe there should be a “Bad Costume Flick: We watch it so you don’t have to” week. (I mean, if you’re not doing anything…. ;-} )

  2. I believe the “giant porcelain cabinets” are actually stoves, for heating the room. They were the 18th century predecessors to the cast iron stoves seen in the 19th century and were quite prevalent in Europe, if I recall correctly… I imagine all that ceramic tile would give off a lot of heat!

    1. Yes! We saw them in castles and palaces all over Eastern Europe. They are called Masonry Heaters, and the advantage is that the wood fire would burn quickly, heating the unit which would then radiate the heat into the rest of the room slowly. I actually paused the show to show them to my husband who also thought they were some kind of wardrobe or furniture.

    2. I agree: stoves. Having two giant ones like these would make Russian winter more bearable!

  3. First of all, I agree with the posters that the porcelain cabinets are stoves. I have seen slightly smaller ones in German castles.

    Secondly, do the costumers of this epic not know about underpinnings???? Even a bodiced petticoat would give the breasts some support and provide a period shape. I’ve been involved in War of 1812 reenactments for a while now (same period as Napoleonic Wars) and frankly, most of the ladies in the hobby have much better clothing than the actresses in this. How expensive can some period underwear be in the grand scheme of things?

  4. I am so happy these recaps are continuing, because after a really shitty week I really needed the laugh.
    Also, I am starting to head canon that BitchWife is a time traveller from either the 1930s or the 1970s. With that her costume choices make (if only a bit) more sense. (Mind you. I do the same with Penny Dreadful’s Dorian Gray, even if the costumes in PD are generally way better than those here)

  5. Nicholas’ army friend is Denisov, who’s actually pretty awesome in the book except that in the translation I have he talks like Elmer Fudd.

    1. Denisov is a lovely character and I can emphaise with his speech defect as I sometimes suffer from the same. As a minor aside the actor who played Denisov in the 72 version also had the role of the one officer at the Opera who is courteous to Anna K in the 79 BBC series. Must have been Denisov’s grandson. I am glad to see that they kept the character if Denisov in this version.

    2. Lise does indeed die in childbirth, although she breathes her last as Andrei enters the house and he is too late to say goodbye to her. He remarks that her expression is one of reproach because she died “alone” abandoned by her husband. It does not specify why she dies in the book, (as I recall) but I guess that death in childbirth was so common then readers just accepted it as part of the natural course of events and a really convenient way to write out unwanted female characters.
      Loving this blog BTW. I may even get up the courage to watch this version/travesty/abomination as it sounds as though it has some redeeming elements but will ensure that nobody else is home at the time to hear me swearing about it.

      1. Lise does see Andrei before she dies:

        ‘Prince Andrew entered and paused facing her at the foot of the sofa on which she was lying. Her glittering eyes, filled with childlike fear and excitement, rested on him without changing their expression. “I love you all and have done no harm to anyone; why must I suffer so? Help me!” her look seemed to say. She saw her husband, but did not realize the significance of his appearance before her now. Prince Andrew went round the sofa and kissed her forehead.
        “My darling!” he said—a word he had never used to her before. “God is merciful….”
        She looked at him inquiringly and with childlike reproach.’

        After that, he’s rushed out of the room while she keeps moaning until the baby is delivered and she dies.

        1. Clearly I have been re watching the TV series (1972) too many times. (it takes so much less time than re reading the book. It must have been almost twenty years since my last re read, before the birth of my eldest made reading novels almost impossible.) In that TV adaptation he arrives back after she dies hence my error.

    3. Elmer Fudd, hmm, you mean ‘Kill the French, kill the French’ sung to the great Wagnerian tune ‘Kill the Rabbit’?
      Denisov, I agree is a mensch.

  6. I have just discovered your blog and I am seriously in love with your writing and the research. Amazing work! Would love to meet up with you if you are in New York.

  7. I am 100% behind a snark week post about bad paintings in historical films. That’s some Dorian Gray-looking nonsense right there.

  8. Fun fact: Tsar Alexander the Hot is played by the younger brother of the equally dishy Ralph of Indian Summers.

    1. As awkward as Natasha and Sonya’s costumes are, I still think it’s a deliberate choice to make them appear childish – no bust, weird bangs, etc. It must be extremely challenging to make a 26-year-old look half her age.

    2. No wonder our Tsar Alexander is so hot, with relations like Ralph….
      Did you know that Tsar Alex the Hot was his grandmother, Catherine’s favourite grandchild. Catherine was Catherine II.

    1. We did them for Indian Summers and for Downton Abbey, but those have been a bit more serious-toned because they weren’t such a travesty. We are planning to add more recaps — I’m thinking I’ll do “Outlander” for sure!

      1. Outlander, great. Jamie can be Jamie the Hottest. And Laoghaire (spelling?) Can be Larry the Dumb Bitch.
        But seriously, that would be great.

  9. As always highly entertaining review. I just knew you guys were going to have fun with this show.

  10. OK, I’m freaking out because I watched this, (twice, actually) and somehow missed the scene where the douchebag goes to the Bolkonsky’s to propose Marya. Was this perhaps not shown in the US version? Also, as I was watching this, I thought of you and was hoping you would be able to explain the embroidered bathing cap on Helene! You are my expert, you’re supposed to know!

    Oh, the porcelain cabinets are masonry heaters, also known as kachelofen, They were used in all those beautiful palaces in Russia, Austria, Germany, etc., put out much more efficient heat than a regular fireplace.

    1. I’m so confused, how would those scenes not be included? They ARE showing the episodes differently in the US, ie 3 episodes instead of 6, but it looks like they’re just combining two British episodes into 1 American.

      1. We were watching on American TV but gave up and started watching the BBC version on the internet because the US broadcast cut out SO. MUCH. I think it’s because the BBC doesn’t have commercials, so two hours for them is a solid two hours of programming whereas two hours in the US has about forty minutes of commercials.

    2. Either they messed with it or I spaced out on that scene too. It was a week ago and the garish atrocities of the costumes and OMG!BANGS have given me some post-traumatic amnesia as far as keeping every character straight, but I really don’t remember that scene. In comparing the original running times and the US + *yawn* ads running times, I had hopes they wouldn’t be omitting anything.

      Why do they feel the need to edit shows for American audiences? Did they feel like something would confuse us? Did they think we wouldn’t notice, then use alternate means to watch the original instead of watch the butchered version for our poor, American sensibilities? Ugh. :(

      1. I firmly believe that American programmers for TV believe that, we as an audience are uneducated about world history and won’t understand anything. Thank Ghu for PBS. Not once during any historical adaptation did I feel that. And I read European history and Art History at uni.

  11. Seriously, though. I might understand the whole “we want the costumes to appeal to a modern audience” angle, if it weren’t for the fact that without the correct undergarments, they’re SO UNFLATTERING!!! You have to work hard to make Lily James’ figure look that frumpy.

  12. Obviously, they read only one quote from H.L. Mencken: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” But yes, programmers think we’re all ignorant yokels.

  13. I wonder if BitchWife’s weird cap is supposed to keep her curls in order while she sleeps. No idea though, if anyone has ever actually worn such a thing.

  14. Regarding the childbirth scene, ummmm. I’m a med student, so I have a bit of a thing about medical inaccuracies on screen (also for costumes, but I don’t have the background knowledge, which is why I adore your blog). The make-up artists in War & Peace did pretty well with the war wounds I thought, so I had my hopes up for the birth, but sadly they’ve gone back to the trope of “who needs accuracy when you can have mid-scream DRAMA”. Ok, one point for letting it last from morning into the night, that’s realistic. But Lise’s strange near-continuous screeching? Sounded more like gallbladder pain than a delivery. As many of you out there probably know, labour pain comes in waves, hitting really hard every 2-3 minutes with a contraction (at which time women do get very loud) but with nothing in between (you can chat quite normally to her then), even in the later pushing stage. (As a side note, labour pain doesn’t build up to this instantly, so contrary to the “ouch what was that” “you are in labour!!!” stereotype, it can be pretty hard to establish whether labour has started.) Unfortunately, most directors decide all this is not dramatic enough for a limited amount of screen time, so the actress just screams her head off throughout.

    As to what killed Lise, big question mark – no clues on screen. Historically and still globally most dangerous is postpartum haemorrhage, i.e. a massive bleed after the delivery when the womb doesn’t contract down properly – but in that case she wouldn’t be screaming right up to the end and there just was nowhere near enough blood. You’d be talking puddles on the floor, not just a few smears on the surgeon’s apron. Infection would have been another biggie, but would not kill instantly. Eclamptic fit a la Downton Abbey? Would not be screaming up to the end. Obstructed labour? This could fit with her earlier difficulties, but that baby seems to have come out alright (if there was an operation, we’d see more blood again, at least on the doctor). Seems like we’re left with ridiculous rarities like a heart attack or amniotic fluid embolism (a bit of the fluid round the baby entering the mother’s blood stream) but these are super small print. Long story cut short, god only knows what was meant to go on there. I doubt the director knew.

    Sorry for the ridiculously long post.

    1. No, this was all fascinating! I’m glad to hear I’m not crazy when I thought “yeah, postpartum blood loss or infection, but mid-scream keel over? huh?”

      1. To be fair, Tolstoy leaves it pretty vague too — the labour’s all offstage (mostly we just see everyone else waiting around trying to conceal their worry for a night and a day). I think here was a bit about Lise not trusting to a rural midwife and wanting a doctor, and the screaming doesn’t really start until the end, so I’m wondering if the implication was that the doctor messed things up (which would fit pretty well with the novel’s themes).

        1. I completely agree with you, but Tolstoy (writing at a time when birth was still largely women’s business) leaving things vague to my mind doesn’t excuse a modern production not doing some homework and falling into every cliché trap – I’m on labour ward placement at the moment and just cringed through the whole scene because the way it was shown is just… well… not as it is. (However, to be fair, even more medically focused shows like Grey’s Anatomy do this.)

  15. This episode could best be described as “well-dressed people behaving stupidly.” Aside from that, the devil is in the details: half the people crossing themselves are doing it Orthodox fashion: top-bottom-right-left, but the rest are doing it Roman fashion: top-bottom-left-right.
    The battle of Borodino was a loss for the Russians, because the French fought through to Moskva, but they paid the price with heavy losses. Russian, 15,00 killed, 25,000 wounded; French 30,000 men and 12 generals.

    1. The funny thing with Borodino in the series is that Napoleon pronounces it stressed correctly (BorodinO), and Kutuzov for some unknown reason says it like it’s somewhere in Italy, as BorodEEEno

  16. Kachelofen are also known as “Siberian stoves” and you can get plans for them. They will burn pretty much anything for fuel and put out a lot of heat.

  17. Where can one purchase the gold printed dressing gown of Nicolai Rostov? or something similar.

  18. Thank you, this is so hilarious! The acting, directing and cinematography look awful even in screencaps. The costumes look weird and frumpy. One thing I should note though, shouting “Hurrah” is totally correct for the Russians :) Still done during official parades and celebrations.

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