Your resident period drama writer here to bring you the five best things about what has been hailed as a “masterpiece” and “the greatest period drama in the last decade”. Of course, I’m talking about the most recent television adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s thousand page novel War and Peace.
The BBC show which aired to the US on Lifetime, History Channel and A&E gave us it’s emotional and beautiful finale last Sunday filled with laughs, tears and heart-wrenching deaths. Now, it’s time for us to take a look at five things that made War and Peace so good.
5. The Kuragin Kids
Prince Vasili’s offspring were the troublesome two amongst the social circles in the show. Whilst enjoying a secret relationship with each other, siblings Anatole and Helene went on to bed and wed other characters. Or tried to, in Anatole’s case.
Helene became Countess Bezukhov within the first few episodes of the show after marrying an oblivious Pierre, but after her husband discovered that she’s been sleeping with Dolokhov it’s safe to say their marriage was never the same. He left to join the Freemasons and Helene shacks up with Boris Drubetskoy before taking her life after discovering she is pregnant.
Meanwhile, Anatole attempted to win the hearts of other eligible ladies. After some failed attempts, he managed to seduce Natasha Rostov with his smarmy and rather uncomfortable charm. However, love was not to be for either of the Kuragin kids after Anatole leaves Natasha brokenhearted and ends up getting his legs sawed off with Natasha’s former flame Prince Andrei right by his side to hold his hand during his last few moments.
4. Location, location, location
One of the standout things about the BBC adaptation was how stunning everything looked. From breathtaking palaces to beautiful cottage hideouts. So, where are all these beautiful places?
The crew filmed in St. Petersburg at Catherine Palace (right) which was the home for a lot of the winter and ballroom scenes. For tours of Catherine Palace, visit this website.
The Moscow street scenes were actually filmed in Vilnuis, an old Lithuanian town as their architecture is close to that of Russian architecture. Featured in these scenes were the Gothic exterior of St. Nikolai’s Church and the red tower of Gediminias Castle, both of which are open to the public.
3. The battle scenes
While war may be good for absolutely nothing, it did add some exhilarating action to the show and was the reason why some of our favourite characters met their demise.
The battle scenes were also shot in Lithuania on farmland in the countryside around Vilnius. Producer Julia Stannard revealed to RadioTimes that they filmed at three different areas because the Battle of Austerlitz is in Austria and it needed to look different to the battle of Schongrabern, which is in Russia. So one was filmed on a sheep farm and the other on a horse farm.
Packed full of explosions, angry shouting from men mounting horses as they charged at the enemy and a rather gloomy Andrei staring off into the distance whilst attempting to get himself killed, the television adaptation really nailed in bringing Tolstoy’s lengthy book descriptions of the battles to life on-screen.
2. That Ballroom Dance
The ballroom scene saw Andrei give into his soft side as he asks Natasha for a dance. As they proceeded to twirl around the ballroom, we couldn’t help but wish it was us dancing with the handsome prince while simultaneously rooting for them.
The scene was just gorgeous. From the costumes, to beautiful lights in the interior of Catherine Palace, to the way Lily James and James Norton portrayed these characters as they fell in love during their spin on the ballroom floor.
Don’t let the hopeful twinkle in Natasha and Andrei’s eyes fool you, they are doomed. Doomed, I tell you, doomed. The finale saw Natasha and Andrei spend their final few moments together and there were a lot of emotions both from Andrei’s grieving loved ones and us.
1. Paul Dano as Pierre
If there was one character that really stole our hearts throughout the adaptation of War and Peace, it was Pierre Bezukhov. Dano played the reckless and freethinking lad flawlessly (so perfectly that we think we might have a crush!). His journey was full of ups and downs after a failed marriage to Helene and almost getting killed by enemy soldiers. Yet, Pierre finally got the girl and a happily ever after in the end!
BONUS: Boris’ face
We didn’t see much of Anna Mikhaylovna’s ambitious son, Boris, but the army officer (played by Aneurin Barnard) certainly made his mark with his iconic facial expressions in one particular scene.
Turns out it’s considered a great honour when one has their ear pulled by an emperor. Seems like Boris thought otherwise.