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Series / War and Peace (2016)

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"We must live. You know, we must love. And we must believe that there's more to it all than our lives on this scrap of earth."
Pierre Bezukhov

The 2016 miniseries adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace by The BBC. This is the network's second television adaptation of the novel, following one in 1972. It was written by Andrew Davies and directed by Tom Harper.

Like the novel, the series follows a group of interconnected Russian nobles at the time of The Napoleonic Wars. Pierre Bezukhov (Paul Dano), the illegitimate son of Russia's richest man who inherits his old man's wealth, wants to change the world for the better. Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton) feels trapped by high society and searches for higher purpose. Natasha Rostova (Lily James) yearns for true love. Natasha's brother Nikolai (Jack Lowden) signs up for the army, leaving his childhood sweetheart and cousin Sonya (Aisling Loftus). Andrei also joins the military, bidding goodbye to his lonely sister Marya (Jessie Buckley), who is caring for their ailing father (Jim Broadbent). Meanwhile, Pierre marries the beautiful yet mercurial Hélène Kuragina (Tuppence Middleton), and finds himself unhappy; Hélène's rakish older brother Anatole (Callum Turner) sets his sights on Natasha. And Napoléon Bonaparte is slowly advancing towards Russia, threatening political and social instability...

In addition to tropes inherited from the novel, this show exhibits examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Natasha, Nikolai, and Lise are described as dark-haired, but are blonde in this adaptation. Conversely, Anatole, Boris, and Dolokhov go from blonde in the novel to dark-haired here.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Princess Marya, described in the book as plain but played by the pretty Jessie Buckley.
  • Adapted Out: Some characters (such as Marya Dmitriyevna Akhrosimova, aunt to the Rostovs) and minor subplots (such as Andrei meeting Napoleon) are cut out.
  • Anachronism Stew: Several of the gorgeous period dresses shown in the film are historically inaccurate to the time period.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Despite all that she's done, the viewer still feels deeply for Helene when she becomes pregnant thanks to an extra-marital affair, is utterly shunned by St. Petersburg society, and either mistakenly takes too much abortifacient or deliberately commits suicide. Upon learning of this, Pierre acknowledges the tragedy of her dying alone.
  • Babies Ever After: In the happy Food End set some time after the horrors of 1812, Pierre/Natasha and Nikolai/Marya are loving parents to their young children, and Natasha is holding her and Pierre's baby.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Flat-out shown in this version, where Anatole comes in to wake Helene up, then climbs into bed with her.
    Helene: "Oh, that feels nice, do that again."
  • Dance of Romance: Andrei and Natasha participate in a dance at a ball, which confirms their attraction and is in fact intercut with scenes of their future courtship.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Helene desperately pretends that nothing is wrong, even though she's pregnant with a baby that she can't even try to claim was fathered by Pierre, and she's clearly starting to show. This is only exacerbated by the fact she's frantically trying to get her marriage to Pierre annulled and marry one of her other lovers. So, what does she wear to Anna Pavlovna's party? A practically see-through dress, which lets everyone spot her baby bump. She's snubbed and ridiculed by the other guests — even including Boris Drubetskoy, her former lover — and Anna naturally tells her to leave straight away, asking why she even came.
  • Dies Wide Open: Andrei dies with eyes open. Natasha closes them.
  • Ethereal White Dress: Just before she commits suicide, Helene walks through a hallway wearing a sheer-ish white gown. She kills herself by overdosing on an abortifacient, so the red blood around her legs stands out against the white of her sheets and dress.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: To show Natasha going from teenagerhood to adulthood: she has Childish Bangs that she grows out as an adult.
  • Food End: The brief Distant Epilogue shown has Pierre, Natasha, Marya, and Nikolai enjoy a picnic with their households (including Sonya) and children.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The soldier who accompanies Pierre to the ammunition cart at Borodino is promptly blown up, resulting in Pierre crying over the top half of his body.
  • I Reject Your Reality: Helen is evidently pregnant with a child that she can't even try to claim was fathered by Pierre and which she's trying to abort — but in her determination to pretend nothing's wrong, she turns up to a social gathering wearing a sheer dress that allows everyone to see her baby bump. She's snubbed and ridiculed by the other guests (including Boris Drubetskoy, her former lover) and Anna Pavlovna naturally tells her to leave straight away, asking why she even came.
  • The Queen's Latin: It's a British production, so everyone speaks The Queen's Russian.
  • Really Dead Montage: As Andrei dies we get a montage of him and his loved ones before cutting back to his corpse.
  • Scenery Porn: Moscow and St. Petersburg are shot beautifully, as are the many scenes in the Russian countryside.
  • Timeshifted Actor: A different actor plays Petya Rostov as a child and as a teen. Same for Andrei's son Nikolai in the series proper and in the epilogue.
  • War Is Hell: Pierre is a firsthand witness to the Battle of Borodino and the French occupation of Moscow in the aftermath — he seens a lot of gore, torture, and needless death.
  • Winter Warfare: Other Russian military figures want to fight back against the French after they take Moscow, but Kutuzov is adamant on doing nothing — he correctly predicts that the harsh winter will drive them out. Pierre is one of the prisoners of war forced to walk through the snow in the aftermath, but he is rescued by his frenemy Dolokhov.


Video Example(s):


Name Day Picnic

The miniseries ends with Natasha, Pierre, Nikolai, Marya, and the extended family celebrating a birthday in the woods.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / FoodEnd

Media sources: