An Admirable Adaptation
I watched this when it first aired on the BBC with no knowledge of Tolstoy's novel or the Napoleonic Wars, and I was captivated from the very beginning. Now, I watched the English version, but I have heard that some of the more graphic scenes were cut when aired in America, so keep that in mind. The BBC is known for their wonderful miniseries, and this certainly did not disappoint.
It follows the story of three main characters -- Pierre, Andrei, and Natasha. Natasha is young and naive. She is very kind-hearted and sweet, but her naivety leads her to try and elope, after which we see her mature and realise her mistakes. She does everything she can to both make up for her own wrongdoings and to help her friends. Overall, a wonderful character that kids can both sympathise with and learn from.
Pierre is probably the best role model in the show. He starts out as a kind hearted man who gets in with a bad crowd. After coming into a large fortune, he is tricked into marrying an unfaithful and cruel woman. He resorts to alcoholism to deal with his unhappiness as his friends and wife turn against him. Eventually though, he realises that doing good for other people is his calling and he does his best to become a good man (a bit likeJean Valjean in Les Mis).
Andrei is a bit of a boring character in my opinion. He treats his first wife very coldly, even though she is pregnant, and goes off to war to achieve glory or death. After experiencing war, he realises he was wrong, but his first wife dies in childbirth. He does eventually find true love, and learns how to forgive those who have wronged him (without giving too much away), but I'm not a huge fan of him.
Marya, although not one of the main characters, is a wonderful role model. She is kind, patient, and understanding. She is treated very poorly by her father, but she eventually receives a happy ending.
Children under 12 definitely won't understand it or get the full experience. It's very much an exploration of morality, life, and society during this period. I think there's a lot of beauty in it, as the characters find peace and love during times of war and hardship, but much of this would be lost on younger viewers.
For anyone older than this, I think it's easy to follow. It's sumptious, and gripping. In fact, it inspired me to read the original novel, which I definitely would not have understood if I hadn't watched the show first. All of the very bad characters get their just desserts in the end, but even they are shown to have good qualities. Despite all the terrible things they've done, you end up feeling sorry for them in the end. I think it's nice for children to see that actually there is good in everybody and that everyone is deserving of compassion.
There is one scene of incest, there is some brief nudity in other scenes, but there are certainly no prolonged sex scenes. The characters all drink in social situations, and one of the characters drinks to cope with his unhappy life, but he eventually stops this. As implied by the title, there are scenes of war. There is battle in which people are shot, stabbed, and killed. This will not be disturbing for people over 12 because it is no worse than other battle scenes. The only scene that I think would disturb some viewers, regardless of age, is a scene where a young man has his leg amputated following a battle. He is evidently in pain and it can be hard to watch. Children and adults alike may want to cover their eyes for this bit.
The only thing I really disliked was the costumes. Many of them had an almost Art Deco style despite the fact that it was set in the early 19th century. That's just me nitpicking though. I just love that none of the characters are perfect. They're all flawed and human, but they learn from their mistakes, making them great role models. All in all, a fab adaptation.
This title contains:
Positive role models
Violence & scariness
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking