I must confess that I have yet to read 'War and Peace'. I have many books from the Russian golden age of writing to tackle, and they are all heavy, serious, tragic tomes it seems. Brilliant, but something to be taken in doses rather than consumed too quickly :)
In the meantime, I did watch the film 'War and Peace' - not the real one, but the newer version (with Audrey Hepburn). Even though I haven't read the book, I know that the characters in the film are quite flat in comparison. This is understandable considering the epic nature of the story and how much plot has to be worked through. It's unfortunate though, as the beauty of Russian writing isn't so much in mere plodding through plots, but in the quiet honesty and realness of the characters, in the paragraphs that philosophize and contemplate rather than tell, in the poetry of the language, in the ability to make profound truths spring up in the reader's heart while presenting the simplest of sentences.
What I did enjoy while watching the film was the whole look of it - the sets, costumes, framing of the shots, sweeping cinematography...everything looked gorgeous and epic indeed. This was done on a grand scale and I can't even imagine how they could make all of it happen. Some of the shots looked like the grandest of old paintings brought to life, it's extraordinary. I also enjoyed seeing Audrey Hepburn as Natasha. She is one of my favourite actresses and I thought she brought real humanity, deep feeling, and sheer energy and spunk to the role. I loved seeing all of the Russian costumes especially, it made me kind of homesick in a strange away. Some of the music was quite striking also.
Like many epics, the last third or so of this film was hard to sit through. They all seem to start so cheerfully and energetically and so full of hope...then, before you know it, everything has turned tragic and gloomy and pretty much everyone is dragging their feet through a deep well of tragedy and despair. Sigh. I think I'll have to watch something light and humorous to even things out a bit :)