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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that War and Peace, a BBC period drama based on Leo Tolstoy's epic novel of the same name, is a solid interpretation of the dense classic. It contains some moments of sexuality, including an incestuous relationship and brief nudity (partial breasts). War scenes also feature lots of bloodshed and bloody corpses, and there's lots of drinking and scenes of drunken revelry. Wealth, marriage, and Russian politics all come into play throughout the twisty plot. Teens should be able to handle it but most probably won't be too interested.
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What's the story?
The BBC series WAR AND PEACE is a dramatic adaptation of the epic 1869 novel written by Russian author Leo Tolstoy. Set in 1812 during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia (referred to by the Russians as the Patriotic War), it follows five aristocratic families -- the Bezukhovs, Bolkonskys, Drubetskoys, Kuragins, and Rostovs -- as they navigate the beginning of the end of czarist society. It centers on the dashing Prince Andrei Bokonsky (James Norton), a disenchanted soldier looking for glory; the awkward, illegitimate Pierre Bezukhov (Paul Dano), who is vulnerable to fortune hunters after inheriting his father’s estate; and Natasha Rostova (Lily James), whose family needs her to marry well to keep them financially strong. As their relationships unfold and their lives continue to intertwine with other members of the aristocratic community, the families face financial gains and ruin, and the changes in Russia tumultuously continue to move closer to reform.
Is it any good?
The elegantly robust, dramatic series offers a new generation of viewers a chance to watch Leo Tolstoy’s complicated masterpiece unfold on the small screen. Due to the length of the saga (which is considered one of the longest ever written), this contemporary version manipulates the book's time line to facilitate the storytelling process. Nonetheless, it still manages to tell the tale with impeccable style, especially with the help of veteran actors such as Greta Scacchi, Gillian Anderson, and Jim Broadbent.
Fans of historical fiction will find it both smart and timeless. But viewers unfamiliar with the novel might find that keeping track of the multiple narratives and large ensemble cast a bit challenging when they first tune in. However, War and Peace is still worth the effort, as the political, philosophical, and romantic threads it spins captures the essence and spirit of Tolstoy's influential work. Best of all, it does so in a way that's highly entertaining.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Russia was like during the time Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peacel. Can period dramas such as this one accurately portray what life was like then? How do we know what people looked like or what their customs and habits were back then? How has Russia changed over the last 200 years?
What are the challenges that come with adapting a novel to a film or TV series? Is it possible to include every character, event, or detail of the story when this transition takes place? Should all those details be included? How does it affect the story you're trying to tell?
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