Sunday, April 08, 2012

Voyna i mir / War and Peace (SU 1967) in 70 mm

Война и мир / Voina i mir / Sota ja rauha / Krig och fred. SU 1967. PC: Mosfilm. D: Sergei Bondartshuk. SC: Bondartshuk, Vasili Solovjov - based on the novel by Leo Tolstoi (1865-1869). DP (Sovcolor, shot simultaneously in 70 mm and 35 mm): Anatoli Petriski - 1:2.2. AD: Mihail Bogdanov, Gennadi Mjasnikov. ED: Tatjana Lihatshova. M: Vjatsheslav Ovtshinnikov. Opera: L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642) by Claudio Monteverdi. "Dies irae" theme in two sequences. Choreography: Vladimir Burmejster. S: Juri Mihailov, Igor Urvantsev - 5+1-channel stereophonic sound. Cost: Mihail Tshikovani. Visual effects: G. Ajzenberg. Special effects: F. Krasnij, M. Semjonov. Pyrotechnics: Vladimir Lihatshjov. Military advisor: General V.V. Kurasov. C: Ljudmila Saveljeva (Natasha Rostova), Sergei Bondartshuk (Pierre Bezuhov), Vjatsheslav Tihonov (Andrei Bolkonski), Viktor Stanitsyn (Ilja Andrejevitsh Rostov), Kira Golovko (kreivitär Rostova), Oleg Tabakov (Nikolai Rostov), Nikolai Kodin, Serjozha Jermilov (Petja Rostov), Irina Gubanova (Sonja), Anatoli Ktorov (Nikolai Andrejevitsh Bolkonski), Antonina Shuranova (Princess Marja), Anastasia Vertinskaja (Liza Bolkonskaja), Boris Smirnov (Prince Vasili Kuragin), Irina Skobtseva (Hélène Kuragina / Bezuhova), Vasili Lanovoi (Anatole Kuragin), Gjuli Tshohonelidze (Bagration), V. Murganov (Alexander I), Vladislav Strzheltshik (Napoleon Bonaparte), V. Sofronov (Emperor Franz). Original in Russian with passages in German and in French. Helsinki premiere 10.11.1967 Capitol, released by Kosmos Filmi.

The original four part version according to Russian Wikipedia (48 reels of ca 300 m): Andrei Bolkonski (1966), Natasha Rostova (1966, 1+2: 255 min), 1812 god (1967, 104 min), and Pierre Bezuhov (1967, 125 min). 484 min / 8 h 4 min.

In Berlin Film Festival's 70 mm retrospective in 2008 the long original Soviet version was announced as: part I: 147 min; part II: 100 min; part III: 84 min, and part IV: 101 min. Totalling 432 min / 7 h 12 min.

The international version dubbed in English: 373 min / 6 h 13 min. Its condensed version: 170 min / 2 h 50 min. - In the GDR the film was released in a version of 409 min / 6 h 49 min. - In the BRD: part I: 165 min, part II: 172 min. Totalling 337 min / 5 h 37 min.

1986: Mosfilm produced a three part tv version in 3:4.

2000: Mosfilm "К этому моменту оригинал (негатив) 70 мм и 35 мм плёнки по причине её исходного низкого качества уже был полностью утрачен и не подлежал восстановлению. Фильм (изображение) восстанавливали с контратипа (позитива). Оригинал — магнитная плёнка с шестиканальным звуком — позволил перенести звуковое сопровождение картины в современный формат Dolby Digital 5.1. Картина была перенесена на цифровые носители, с восстановленным заново звуковым сопровождением. (Russian Wikipedia)" I don't understand Russian but I guess they say that the original 70 mm and 35 mm negatives were no longer possible to access, and from duplicates a digital master was created.

On Finnish tv: the full version in a series in 7 parts 16.12.1971 - 8.1.1972 (a colour transmission), and in a condensed version in 3 parts in the end of year 1991.

The Finnish cinema release in two parts: part I: 10.11.1967 Capitol - 5190 m / 188 min. Part II: 15.3.1968 - 4816 m / 174 min. Totalling 362 min / 6 h 2 min.

Our special 70 mm screening on the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Borodino, viewed at Bio Rex, Helsinki, 8 April 2012. The version screened was the 362 min Finnish cinema release version in 23 reels of ca 600 m, with electronic subtitles by Tuulia Lehtonen. The heroic projectionists were Erik Peltola, Markku Eriksson, and Riitta Haapalainen. The father of the project was Pasi Nyyssönen. The movie was shown in four parts: 15.00 Part I, 107 min, 18.15 Part II, 80 min, 19.15 Part III, 82 min, 21.00 Part IV, 94 min. The programme ended at 22.37.

200 years ago Napoleon invaded Russia and Helsinki became the capital of the grand duchy of Finland, the kingdom of Sweden having given up Finland to the Russian empire in a recent deal with Napoleon.

The Sergei Bondarchuk film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel still holds the record in the Guinness Book of Records regarding the size of the cast: 120.000. The battle scenes of Austerlitz and Borodino are among the most magnificent ever made. The first part of the movie received 58 million viewers in Russian cinemas.

The action takes place in 1805-1813, following the destinies of the families of Rostov, Bolkonsky, Kuragin, and Bezukhov. Omissions from the novel include: the philosophical passages, most of Nikolai Rostov's story, the story of Anatoli and Mary, Pierre Bezukhov's experiences with Freemasonry, and the conclusion, the follow-up of the stories during 1812-1820.

Work on the script began in 1961. The battle of the Borodino panorama shooting began on 25 August, 1963, with a cast of 15.000. In July 1964, Bondarchuk suffered a massive heart attack. In 1965, he experienced a second clinical death.

My favourite performances include: Anatoli Ktorov as the old Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky, Boris Zahara as Kutuzov, Nikolai Trofimov as Captain Tushin, Oleg Tabakov as Nikolai Rostov, Viktor Stanitsyn as Count Rostov, and Sergei Ermilov ast Petja Rostov. The biggest disappointment among the performances is provided by Sergei Bondarchuk, himself, a fine actor, as Pierre Bezukhov (he should be 20 years when the story starts, but the actor was 43 when the production started). He feels stunned and overwhelmed. Equally miscast in the role of Hélène was Irina Skobtseva, the director's wife, 37 years old when the production started (Hélène would have been ca 20 years old).

Tolstoy's novel was used as a textbook at the VGIK the Russian film academy on the courses of Mikhail Romm and Sergei Eisenstein before him, who introduced Tolstoy as a forerunner of parallel narration and "multi-character storytelling" as we would say today. But Tolstoy's novel is more "cinematic" than Bondarchuk's conventional, pedestrian movie.

What I like in the movie besides the performances singled out above:
- The grandeur of the epic scenes conveyed via camera movements from scaffolds, swings, cranes, and helicopters which takes us to the sky, giving us a God-like vision on the massive events. Abel Gance did this better in Napoléon, but he did not have helicopters.
- Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov's excellent score.
- Natasha and Pierre's encounter at the end of Part II, where they realize they mean something special to each other.
- Part III ("The Year 1812") is on a higher level than the other parts, perhaps also because it has been less tampered with in the process of abridgement.
- The death of the old Count Bolkonsky in Part III.
- The encounter of Kutuzov and Andrei Bolkonsky in Part III.
- The holy procession in Borodino on the eve of the battle in Part III.
- The encounter of Pierre Bezuhov and Andrei Bolkonsky on the eve of the battle of Borodino in Part III.
- The battle of Borodino itself may be the most formidable battle sequence ever filmed. In Part III.
- In the field hospital Andrei Bolkonsky lies side by side with Anatoli Kuragin, his rival for Natasha's love. Andrei has fallen with mortal grenade wounds to the stomach, and he witnesses the amputation of Anatoli's leg while a lullaby plays in his mind. Half of Russia's troops have been crushed in Napoleon's biggest battle. In Part III.
- The fire of Moscow in Part IV.
- Natasha at Andrei's deathbed in Part IV.
- The still childish and over-zealous Petya Rostov on the front during Napoleon's retreat in Part IV.
- The aerial shots of the retreat of Napoleon's army in the snowstorm in Part IV.

- There is often a whispering or muttering way of speech, perhaps to avoid bombasm.

What I missed most:
- My favourite chapter in the novel is the one with the evacuation of the Rostov family from the embattled Moscow. The Rostovs have already packed all their belongings in their carriages when Natasha notices on the streets war invalids without transportation, takes the lead and orders the Rostov carriages to be emptied to make room for the soldiers. That is the turning-point in Natasha's growing-up story from a teenage girl into a grown-up woman, her perspective growing from her own little world to the big world of society. This scene is very well realized in King Vidor's movie, and Audrey Hepburn rises to the occasion in her interpretation as Natasha, but in the Bondarchuk version (surprisingly for a Soviet movie), or at least in this print, it is not like that and is brushed away in a flash.

The 70 mm projection of the 45 year old vintage print was conducted flawlessly, but the print did not convey a particularly good 70 mm experience. War and Peace was an exceptionally popular movie: 2805 prints were struck (such numbers of prints were ultra rare in those days), and perhaps not all prints were excellent. Our print looked a generation too far removed from the original negative. A duped quality diminished the perception of solidness and fine detail distinctive to a good 70 mm image. The contrast was slightly low, like in a television print. The colour palette had survived, but slightly faded, the drawbacks evident in banquet and nature scenes. The image was clean. This print has not been heavily used, and there were few scratches.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good news to hear that a good quality 70mm print of Voyna i Mir exists. I own a dvd set of this film made by Ruscico. The 5.1 sound was excellently restored but they unfortunately used a 35mm anamorphic print of the film and it was scanned a rather low bit rate. Hopefully an arrangement can be made possibly for Ruscico to make a special blu-ray edition using this print?