39 thoughts on “War & Peace (2016) Recap, Pt. 2

  1. I am a military historian, though not particularly knowledgeable on Napoleonic-era Russian uniforms; however, in reference to your comment on the gold braid, the uniform is historically accurate as far as the colors go. Nikolai is an officer in the Pavlograd Hussars, who did wear green jackets with gold braid (and a light blue pelisse – that short jacket that is often only worn on the left arm – as seen in other scenes). Other hussar regiments wore other color combinations. I’ve noticed that most of the Russian soldiers in this adaptation wear green jackets, though blue, black, grey, and even red could be found in the Russian army. I think the producers wanted to keep it simple for the audience with a Russian soldiers = Green, French = blue scheme, although uniforms were not this simple in any national army at the time. Napoleon is shown wearing his blue Imperial Guard uniform every time we see him; however, in the field I believe he often wore a green cavalry uniform with a grey overcoat (I think they dispensed with this so the audience would not confuse him for a Russian). If any other military history types know more and want to add to this or correct me, I’d be interested in hearing about it too.

      1. You’re welcome, wish I knew more. Reenactors are often the people to ask on these sorts of things. Also nice to note that at least in this episode, the gentlemen wore breeches, shoes and stockings rather than boots to the ball. So many historical dramas set in this period love to keep the men in the boots in inappropriate situations. Probably as it looks more “manly” to the modern eye.

      1. That reminds me– last time I rewatched Back to the Future III, I realized that Doc and Clara are dancing the polka, which I suspect was pretty accurate. 1885 would have been very much the tail end of the polka craze, but it makes sense for a community dance in a small frontier town.

  2. Thank you again for watching this atrocity and reporting back. Maybe the costumers did their women’s shopping at a discount drapery fabric shop? Kind of what it looks like…

    1. It’s actually pretty funny, because I’m writing my snark in my head the whole time and picturing everyone’s responses…

      1. It’s the last episode here in the UK on Sunday, and in a weird way I’m actually going to miss it once it’s over – just sitting there going What. The. ???? for an hour!

  3. All the loose hair is killing me! It was at a low simmer of annoyance through most of it, but then I got to the “peasant woman” at the end, and AAAAH! Couldn’t they at least let her confine it in braids, which I think was traditional in Russia anyway? All I can think is that they must have absolutely no idea what it’s like to have long hair, even setting aside historical accuracy for a moment. My hair is just past my waist, and I feel like screaming after a very short period of time if I try to do much of anything with it loose, all flying in my face and wrapping around my arms and falling in the dishwater… NOPE.

    Is it the modern association with updos=formal vs. loose=casual/”down-to-earth” that keeps modern films stuck on this ridiculousness?

      1. The Great Bobby Pin Shortage can be blamed for so many things: Whorewife not being eaten by Drogon, Douchebag not being killed by either poison, shooting or strangling, Frodo’s poor taste in women. But the most important is the inaccuracies of costume, boob support, and why the director and screenwriter don’t understand the Russian Soul.

        1. These reviews have been prompting me to look up the 1960s Russian version, which lasts about six hours and was released originally as several feature films. The costumes look pretty good; the film also cost a fortune, took six years to make and gave the director (who also played Pierre) two heart attacks. Also I think the Russian army was played by the actual Russian army.

  4. Urgh. I am not even half way through reading this and have to keep stopping because it is unbearable. What has Andrew DAvies done to my favourite story?? Natasha on the balcony talking about her attraction to Prince Andrey? NO no no and even more no. Tolstoy would have passed the Bechdel test but not Davies. Natasha talks about the beauty of the night, the magnificent stars and the moon and speculates on flying away. She does not mention Andrey and he is struck by the fact that to her he does not exist. This inspires him to reengage with world. This is such an important moment in his development and in illustrating her character that to change is is nothing short of sacrilege.
    Also and I may be wrong on this as I have watched the old TV series so much that I forget the book but I do not recall Nicoli wasting the family fortune on cards. It was the old count who squandered the money on parties for the children.
    I am so grateful for this blog. I was undecided as to whether to watch this adaptation or not. Now I have made up my mind, I will stick with re watching the old series and satisfy my curiosity about the new with this wonderful blog.

    1. Nikolai does gamble away a significant portion of the family money in the book. Dolokhov goads him into gambling and beats him repeatedly (possibly through cheating), in full knowledge that he is putting Nikolai into much more debt than he can afford. The book makes sure that you know Dolokhov does it in revenge for Sonja rejecting his proposal, believing Nikolai encouraged her to reject him. Nikolai then promises his father that he will return to active service in the army, and will live as frugally as possible while doing so.

      1. Also, though some of the female costuming is questionable, I’d encourage anyone to watch this adaptation, the acting and cinematography are brilliant and I think make up for it. It is a rare thing to find any historical piece that doesn’t take liberties with costumes.

      2. The book however does specifically lay the blame for the families financial woes primarily upon their lifestyle and their propensity to offer hospitality to all and sundry. They are supporting numerous retainers as well as always hosting at least 20 staying guests. Nicholay’s gamboling losses only acerbates and already deteriorating situation.There is also the issue of the girl’s dowries but I’m guessing Vera has been dropped from this version, not that I blame A.D for that. She was rather expendable as a character.

          1. Fair enough then. I have not yet and may not watch this production. I am still curious about some aspects of it and would love to see the settings. ST Petersberg is one of my favourite cities.

  5. Perhaps the one-shoulder dress isn’t quite as far out as all that. I remember someone talking about Josephine wearing a Roman-style dress that was supposed to have two straps crossing over in front. On some occasion, she wore only one, leaving a breast bare. Having seen the goblet moulded on one of the Imperial Court lady’s breast, anything is possible.

    1. mmcquown
      February 5th, 2016

      Perhaps the one-shoulder dress isn’t quite as far out as all that. I remember someone talking about Josephine wearing a Roman-style dress that was supposed to have two straps crossing over in front. On some occasion, she wore only one, leaving a breast bare. Having seen the goblet moulded on one of the Imperial Court lady’s breast, anything is possible.

      Yes, possibly in warm Paris, but not in cold Moscow! Or else, BitchWife would freeze to death soon … to our pleasure :D Also I miss the lavish, elegant and aristocratic russian court ensembles, with the heavy court train, elaborate adornments, cut in the “old russian” style, etc…

    2. I thought it was that tart, Pauline Bonaparte, she had a breast fetish on her own breast. She commissioned wine goblets in shape of her breasts.

      Still, of Nappy’s family, my favourites are the ones he got by marriage: Josephine, Hortense, Eugene and Marie Louise. The rest are meh.

  6. Hello, I’m a long time admirer of your work, and first time commenting. I actually have a lot of friends in Napoleonic reenactment and I’ve got quite an interest in it myself so I can give you a few things on those uniforms. First of all yes the pavlograd hussard color scheme is good (and yes, Napoleon did wear his green Horse Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard uniform pretty much all the time on the battlefield). My main qualms are about the overall fit. Those uniforms all seem nearly theatrical : the golden braid would be much thicker and less modern, the collar is way too open, the belt is worn on the hips, but it should be on the waist, otherwise it’s useless in battle, the dolman is not cut correctly (too low, and on the back you can’t see the distinctive pattern). Frodo’s uniform seems off too, (the golden front in particular) but I’m not sure which regiment he’s supposed to be – orevall it looks like a carabinier. Oh and Dolokhov black shift is NOT historical (someone really ought to write something on those, they pop up way too frequently on ‘historical’ movies/tv shows).

    On a side note : those waistcoat fits are not great either. Douchebag’s is a horror : what is this crease?

    1. Good info, I had thought that the gold braid looked a bit thin too, but am no way qualified to say for sure, it was more of an instinctive thought. I’ll have to look at the sword belts too, swords are often really badly depicted in historical films, both in their display and use. The sword fighting/training as depicted in this has been pretty bad, but most historical films have bad sword fighting. Actual historic swordplay was much more controlled than the big slashing movements you see in film.

      On uniforms, I’m thinking that Andrei’s white uniform at the ball is pretty much made up, I know some Russian Guards regiments wore white, but I doubt with that amount of lace. Then again, I know it was also acceptable for wealthy officers in those days to take stylistic liberties with their uniforms if they could afford the tailoring. I’m not sure what regiment Andrei is in at this point, I recall from the novel he was assigned to some level of General Staff that was working on national army reforms. I did like that at Austerlitz they show men wearing the very oversized and slightly silly-looking (to modern eyes) cocked hats. Some historical films size them down to look a bit less overstated.

      1. Yes I was a bit skeptical too for Andrei’s white uniform. The sheer level of canetille can only be consistent with a marshal or general of division. And none of the all-white uniforms I know look like that. Then again, those superior officer did accomodate what they wore to their fashion taste – Murat pretty much changed his for each different battle.

      2. There’s a Russian version on YouTube. I don’t know when it was made but it’s obviously earlier and in that one’s ball scene Andrei also wears a white and silver uniform. It’s not the same but it is very similar. Actually it was shot very similarly too, so either both are reasonably accurate or the BBC copied the Russian one thinking we wouldn’t know it!

        1. No, sorry: the uniform you mean really is NOTHING like. The movie you’re thinking of is the Bondarchuk 1967 version, and there’s a slew of stills from it here:
          The uniform here is straight-up Russian heavy cavalry officer – white coat with red collar and cuffs with silver lace buttonhole edging, and silver epaulettes. (Could be Imperial Guard Cuirassiers – see here: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/533324780852561431/)

          Anyway, in the Bondarchuk version Andrei wears a perfectly simple military coat with not a stitch of embroidery in sight, whereas Davies dresses him in a wild fantasy of all-over silver embroidery with NO buttons or buttonholes. That isn’t a military coat at all – it’s pretty much a British late 19th-century court uniform but done in fantasy colours.

          Exactly why Andrei should be in heavy cavalry uniform at the ball when in the battle scenes both before and after it he appears in the dark green of the infantry, I don’t know. But the Bondarchuk production was famously pedantic about the historic detail (to the extent of digging up and replanting an entire field with the specific crop that Tolstoy said was growing in it), so I’m prepared to trust them that for whatever reason he was in the cavalry at the time – I’m not going to re-read the entire middle of the book to check!

          FWIW, the 1956 American-Italian production also put Mel Ferrer into a white uniform for the ball, although they dressed it up by changing the metal to gold, hanging his Order of St George from a collar, and giving him a plastron front, a whomping big aiguillette (that’s the metal rope thing under the arm), and some embroidery as well as loops on the collar: https://www.flickr.com/photos/greenman2008/8521266842. So, not too accurate; but unlike what Norton was given to wear it’s still reasonably plausible as a military coat of the period.

  7. I don’t know anything about uniforms, but your picture here illustrates a complaint I saw elsewhere: their faces may be very dirty, but their uniforms are immaculate.

    1. I always wondered how they got all the mud and blood stains off their uniforms. Given the cost I don’t imagine they had too many spares or they were readily replaced. (I also believe that TV/Film productions have the same problems, An actor’s face can we wiped clean but the costume, which is often hired, costs to launder.)

      1. Indeed. A couple of years ago I saw an (actually pretty good) period zombie flick, in which it was, however, obvious that they couldn’t afford to break-down or bloodstain 1860s costumes for an entire zombie horde (even assuming they could afford period costumes for a hundred extras) so the zombies were all wearing tattered, dirty, but pretty obviously modern clothing with the occasional top hat or shawl thrown on for flavour.

  8. I got all excited by the promise of “balls” in this recap, until I realized it was not the “balls” I was imagining. Guess I need to see the rate X Euro version for that, hehe.

    But seriously, why are most of the women’s costumes so god awful while the men’s outfits look generally appropriate and historically correct? I will never forgive whoever thought a lady would wear a bowler hat with veil as part of her hunting ensemble in this period. And bangs do not grow out that fast. They just don’t.

  9. Hmm…I wonder if the costume designer read their notes wrong and thought it said 1910s instead of 1810s in terms of the period. And is also a member of the (misguided) camp that Paul Poiret designs were not worn with corsets/foundation garments.

  10. We have now, as of last night, seen all of War and Peace here in the UK. I did love it but like this excellent blog I would also be quite critical of it. It ran at 6 hours 20 mins. I remember vividly the BBC 1972 version – and re-watched it 2 years ago – that ran at 20 hours. This version is so cut down. After all, it is one of the longest novels ever written, should it not have made an epic, much longer series? The 1972 version has hopeless production values by today’s standards – it was mostly shot on a multi-cam stage with open mics so every sip of wine was a great slurp and the walls wobbled with every slammed door. Yet it was magnificent, introducing Anthony Hopkins to millions as a great character actor, because it celebrated the text and every nuance in detail.

    Obviously, this one cut to suit the modern tastes of the Twitterati, our knowledge (or, rather, lack of it) of Russian and Napoeonic history and literature, and 2016 boredom thresholds. It’s risk averse too, it cost £10m and the givernment is currently reviewing BBC expenditure, which is public money. The BBC didn’t risk spending £20m on a flop.

    But it’s also worth noting this was made for BBC1, the BBC’s most mainstream channel. Most intellectual literary period drama is made for the allegedly more intellectual and much less popular BBC2 or BBC4. So I think costume and casting were unsubtly deployed here to semaphore the plot lines and character traits rather than leave that to more profound writing. So Helene is dressed as a slut and usually shot reclining, Natasha as a virginal nymph clutching posies of wild flowers, Sonia as a geek darning a gusset, that sort of thing. And it was kept relatively glamorous, modern and attractive to hold on to its ratings. I notice we saw very few serfs and other than Pierre we got no indication of the source of anyone’s vast wealth. It’s like a Southern plantation family riding around in a carriage going, look, no slaves. Slave owners dripping with blood diamonds don’t make attractive leads. And it’s all relative. When Countess Rostova says they are poverty stricken she really means they are down to their last ten stately homes, 75 Venetian crystal chandeliers and thousand serfs.

    But I did love it. This is my favourite period for costume. You can keep today’s hoodies, wind and waterproof fabrics, fanny packs and ripped jeans exposing ass cracks and acres of tattooed flesh. It’s a Hussar’s pelisse or a silk frock coat and breeches for me any day!

  11. Thank you for sharing that link. A Telegraph Article that I agree with. That is frightening. Nice to see this site credited, as it should be.
    There is a line in that article “but that doesn’t matter if the transgressions were intelligently thought through”. While some degree of “fast and loose” is generally required for various reasons, cost, availability of fabrics, durability of appropriate fabrics, representation of character, etc etc, this production goes way beyond that. I find it interesting that the men’s costumes are within reason. It is the women’s costumes that scream cat walk. Is this an attempt to pull male, costume drama adverse viewers, in response to internet moaning about “another pointless costumes drama?”
    What I really don’t understand about the costumes in this is that they are not even attractive. There does not seem to be any good reason for the inaccuracy.

  12. Oh wait, I think I know what’s going on with Bitchwife’s dress fabric when she shows up with all of her bags. If you stare at it and un-focus your eyes, you can see a dolphin or some shit!

  13. LOL Natasha’s folk dance looks like a weird mushroom trip)) For an accurate depiction, check out this scene from our 1965 production:
    Of course Natasha’s winged eyeliner and a gorgeous hairdo are a totally 1960s screaming hit, but the music and dance movements (and demure costumes) are spot on.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from Frock Flicks

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading