Previously on War and Peace: Natasha trashed her relationship with Andrei, who decided he could never forgive her or anyone else, and then learned to forgive after all following the devastating Battle of Borodino. Pierre was at Borodino too, kind of as a tourist, but he got to feel a little useful. His wife, who it seems will sleep with anyone other than her own husband, found herself expecting a little surprise.
Sorry this is so absurdly late, everyone. We had family visiting, and that tends to mean free time = 0 (especially when you throw a toddler into a mix). Not that I would have changed a bit of it.
Napoleon reaches the outskirts of Moscow, hardly able to believe that he’s been able to just wander up to Russia’s sacred city. He decides not to destroy the place and will, instead, be merciful and bring freedom etc. to the city. He declares this the dawn of a new age in Russia.
Seems he doesn’t have to destroy the place, because the Russians are doing a good job of that themselves. Looters are already trashing Moscow, watched by young Petya, who hurries home to tell his family what’s going on and urge them all to get the hell out of the city. Ilya, of course, is just chilling with a glass of wine and decides there’s plenty of time to flee for their lives. I so want someone to slap this useless man.
Natasha runs outside and asks some passing officers if they can help. He asks for food and water. She agrees and offers shelter to wounded soldiers. The officer thanks her.
Inside, she and Sonya pack to flee and talk about their bleak marital prospects. Natasha worries about Pierre, wondering if she’ll ever see him again. She then moves on to worrying about the fate of the wounded soldiers when the French arrive. She suggests taking some of them along, an idea that her mother shuts down because it would mean leaving some of their things behind. Natasha begs and then asks her mother if she isn’t ashamed of herself, which seems to do the trick.
The family sits in a room that’s been mostly stripped of furniture, for some reason (did they store it? Pack it? It’s unclear). At last, Ilya rises and they all go outside to the waiting carriages and climb in. Off they go, through the chaotic streets. On the road, Natasha spots Pierre and calls for the carriage to stop. She calls him over and asks why he’s dressed like a peasant. She urges him to come with them and leave Moscow. He tells her he can’t, because he has to stay and assassinate Napoleon. Oh, Pierre, you’re adorable.
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Pierre tells Natasha he has to stay in Moscow and assassinate Napoleon. Oh, Pierre, you’re adorable.[/cryout-pullquote]
He wanders down the street and learns from one man that the French have reached the city.
He goes to his massive house and finds a French officer in his dining room. After an exchange of ‘who the hell are you?’ the officer politely introduces himself as Ramballe and informs Pierre that the house has been commandeered by the French army. He asks Pierre to sit and have a drink with him and Pierre does, in part so he can find out where Napoleon is. What luck! He’s in Moscow too. The two men talk about love, as men do, and Pierre confesses he’s only truly loved one woman in his entire life, and she can never be his.
Natasha and her family reach an inn or a village or something, and the ladies start helping the wounded. Sonya approaches one carriage and is told the man inside should have a room to himself, if possible, because he’s a VIP. She glances inside and recognises Andrei. She immediately agrees to see to his room.
Someone points out the glow of flames from Moscow to Ilya, who mourns the loss of the city.
Pierre and Ramballe have fallen asleep at the table. Pierre wakes, helps himself to one of the carving knives on the sideboard, and leaves.
The city is, indeed, aflame, though whether the fire’s been set by the French or the Russians is unclear. Pierre makes his way through the chaotic streets and finds a woman screaming that her child was left inside a nearby burning building. The French soldiers won’t let anyone in, so Pierre goes through a side entrance, locates the child, and gets to be a Big Damn Hero. Back on the street, he saves the child’s mother from being attacked by some soldiers, but then he’s set upon by about eight Frenchmen. One of them finds the knife and calls Pierre an assassin and a pyromaniac. Pierre is dragged away, screaming.
Sonya tells Natasha that Andrei is there, in the back room of the house, too badly wounded to see anyone. Natasha puts on a brave face but is unable to sleep. She finally gets up and goes to the room where Andrei lies. Andrei, too, is awake and amazed to see her. She sobs and begs him to forgive her. He whispers that he loves her, even more than he did before. He says he was the one who was wrong and she should forgive him.
Nikolai goes to see Marya and tells her that Andrei is alive and being cared for by his family. She’s overjoyed to hear the news and immediately decides to take Andrei’s son to see his father. She and Nikolai have a little moment, and she urges him to stay safe.
Natasha is refusing to leave Andrei’s side, despite her mother whining that they have to be on their way. Natalya stupidly asks her husband what they should do, as if he’s ever been able to make a decision in his entire life. This time is no different, and he just says it’s up to her what they should do: stay or go. He’s off to visit the goats and get some fresh air. Natalya continues to drama queen about how they’re ruined and have nothing left, nothing at all. What about that big estate out in the countryside? Don’t you still have that? She then gets steely and asks Sonya if she understands what Natalya is saying. Sonya does. Natalya’s a bitch.
Pierre and other prisoners are marched off to the execution grounds, where men are summarily shot by firing squad. For some reason that’s never made clear, Pierre is spared.
Andrei waxes philosophical about how the world wants us to love it. He then reassures Natasha that he’s happy. He saw Anatole in the hospital and forgave him because Anatole can’t help being the way he is. Actually, Anatole, being a grown man, could totally help being an asshole who tries to seduce and knowingly ruin young women. He does have some control over his own actions. The two of them take their share of the blame for the breakup and seem to have reached a really good place.
Sonya writes Nikolai a letter releasing him from all obligations to her. Which is good timing, because it seems like he was trying to write her a letter begging for his freedom. Poor Sonya.
The generals are trying to convince Kutuzov to attack Moscow and retake it, but he wants to sit and wait and basically let the Russian winter take care of Napoleon’s army for them.
Napoleon is befuddled by this particular plan. He can’t imagine why they won’t attack or accept his terms of surrender. He throws a tantrum and is not made happier by the news that they’re running out of supplies.
Pierre is in prison, probably counting the moments until death. A fellow prisoner urges him to relax, because there’s not much they can do just now. He brings his little dog over to meet Pierre, because dogs always make everything better, and Pierre does, indeed, perk up. The man also produces a potato and splits it with Pierre. Man, this guy’s some sort of a saint. He’s even got salt to go with that potato and urges Pierre to savour every bite. Pierre does, and begins to smile. The man introduces himself as Platon.
Helene, somehow unaware that her husband’s been taken prisoner, keeps writing him letters castigating him for not replying and begging him to annul their marriage. She’s getting desperate: she’s beginning to show.
Marya’s on the road to see her brother.
Natasha’s family has received a letter from Petya, who has now joined the army, though he hasn’t yet seen any action. It seems that Ilya’s had some sort of breakdown and can’t even remember that his younger son’s in the army now. Yikes!
Marya arrives at the house and is greeted by Natalya and Ilya. Natasha rushes downstairs when she hears her and the two women embrace tightly. Natasha takes Marya and the child upstairs to see Andrei, warning Marya that there’s not much time left.
Marya steels herself and goes into Andrei’s room. He’s looking really bad. Marya takes his hand and tries not to lose it. Andrei urges her not to cry, asks his son to kiss him. The boy does and Andrei looks at him, declares he’s much like his mother, and urges him to be happy. As Marya goes to take the boy out, Andrei asks her to take the icon she gave him so the boy will have something to remember his father by. She carefully removes it and hangs it on the boy’s neck.
Once outside the room, Marya bursts into tears, realising her brother is about to die.
Andrei receives last rites as the entire household watches. His son fingers the icon around his neck. Andrei dies quietly, with Natasha and Marya holding his hands. I cry more than is entirely reasonable.
Platon and Pierre talk about family. Platon was taken to join the army, which meant his brothers, who had families, didn’t have to go. Pierre admits he used to admire Napoleon, but having seen all the senseless death he thought the world might be better off without Old Boney. Platon says they’re both too tender for this game. He was in the army for ten years and somehow managed never to kill anyone. That’s impressive, actually.
Winter begins to set in. Napoleon watches the snow fall and tells his officers they need to leave.
For some reason, they take the prisoners with them. Pierre suggests the army just leave them behind but the French soldier tells him they don’t want the prisoners just rejoining the Russian army. Fair enough, but your supplies are already strained, guys. You leave these people in a burned-out city in the middle of winter and they’re probably mostly just going to die anyway. Spare yourself the extra food, at least.
Platon mourns the destruction of Moscow and the barbarity on display.
The prisoners are moved off the road so some officers can ride by. Pierre recognises Ramballe and calls out to him, but of course he is ignored. Carts containing loot and some prostitutes (presumably) roll by and the men catcall the women, who wave back and wink, like they’ve just won something. Oh, ladies, how sorry do I feel for you?
Helene gets some sort of abortion medicine and is told by the man selling it that she should take no more than two drops a day and nature will just take its course. She’s a complete mess at this point and angrily asks if there isn’t something else he can do for her. He urges her to stay calm.
Her method of coping is to, bizarrely, put on what appears to be an entirely see-through nightgown and go to Anna’s for a party. Everyone there, even Boris, turns their back on her, and Anna quickly steers her right back out the door and tells her to get lost.
Helene returns home and drinks pretty much the entire bottle of medicine. It starts to work. Quickly. The next morning, she’s dead, covered in blood.
The retreating French reach Borodino. Pierre recognises it. Peton’s got a nasty cough now. He urges Pierre to go on and Platon will catch up. He drops off to the side and is shot by a French soldier. I guess the one thing the French weren’t short on was bullets. Jesus. The poor dog whimpers by his body. Pierre has no choice but to continue on, or be shot himself.
In a rather odd departure from how the rest of this has been portrayed, Natasha has an imaginary conversation with dead Andrei about how she would have been happy to take care of him forever, even if he was basically a convalescent for the rest of his life. She says there’s no one in the world for her now, and she’ll remember Andrei forever.
The retreating French are spied upon by Dolokhov and Denisov. How did they end up together? They weren’t even in the same branches of the army, were they? Eh, whatever. They return to camp just as young Petya rides up, making way too much noise and awkwardly delivering a letter to Denisov. Denisov doesn’t recognise the boy right away, but when Petya reminds him who he is Denisov embraces him. Petya asks if he can join their squad and Denisov gives him permission, warning him that this is no glory squad, they attack like wolves, when the enemy is weak, to scare them out of Russia and make sure they never return.
Once they’re underway, Denisov tells Dolokhov to watch out for the boy, because he really wants to send him home to his mother in one piece. Dolokhov is a bit offended that Denisov even needs to ask.
Dolokhov decides to infiltrate the French camp to learn their strength. He takes Petya with him, despite Denisov’s objection. Thanks to Doloknov’s decent French, they manage to lie their way into the French camp and find out how big the regiment is and how many prisoners they have. Petya is the worst spy ever and clearly terrified. Dolokhov notices one of the French soldiers eyeing the kid and gets them both moving again before too many questions can be asked.
Back in their camp, Petya sings Dolokhov’s praises to an underling and offers the man some raisins. He then asks the man to sharpen his sabre for him, admitting it’s never been sharpened. The man offers to put a good edge on it for the boy. Petya falls asleep beside the fire, listening to the man sharpening his sword.
In the early morning, the man rouses Petya. Everyone mounts up and gets ready to attack the French. Denisov tells Petya not to try and be a hero.
They attack while the French are still sort of sleep-groggy. Petya looks terrified. The other men slash their way through the French soldiers. One of the French gets a shot off that hits Petya. Denisov dives off his horse and rushes to the boy’s side, but it’s too late. War really is hell. Denisov wails and sobs over the boy. I’m not sure if this extreme reaction is because it’s just so horrible seeing young boys cut down so early, or if Denisov was particularly close to Petya, or a little of both.
The French regiment is defeated and the prisoners are freed. Amongst them—wouldn’t you know it?—is Pierre. Small world! Dolokhov embraces him and calls for some help. Pierre, dazed, can’t seem to quite believe this is happening.
Word of Petya’s death reaches his family, and his mother reacts with predictable hysterics, as any mother would. Natasha tries to comfort her as Sonya weeps in the background and Ilya just looks defeated.
Speaking of defeated people, the French army is in a bad way. We see shots of snow-covered bodies (Ramballe and Platon, I think?) and Napoleon is driven in a neat little sleigh through the tattered remains of his Grand Armee. News that Napoleon has left Russia is brought to Kutuzov, who’s overjoyed that Russia has been saved by its own notoriously harsh weather.
News of Petya’s death has completely broken Ilya, who’s on his way out, apologising to his wife for having ruined them.
Moscow is pulling itself back together. Ilya is buried there, in a pretty grand funeral. Natasha and her mother weep together and Nikolai kisses his father’s forehead.
Pierre wakes in his own bed, probably after having slept for a week solid. He gets up and is told by a servant that both Dolokhov and Denisov have been to check on him. He gets dressed and has a shave and a haircut and an actual meal, pausing for a moment to contemplate the potatoes and consider all those lowly tubers mean to him now.
Marya goes to visit Natasha and her family. The hallway of the building where they’re living suggests it’s kind of a shithole, but their apartment actually looks really nice. She expresses her condolences to Natalya on the loss of Ilya, gets a frigid greeting from Nikolai, and a much happier one from Natasha. Marya invites the family to come stay with her, because she’s got quite a lot of room and hardly anyone to help her fill it up. The ladies are overjoyed; Nikolai, not so much. He refuses to accept charity but his mother tells him to get over himself.
Once he’s alone with Sonya, he admits that he can’t propose to Marya, even though he loves her, because they’re too poor now and he doesn’t want to be kept. Sonya says that Marya deserves to be happy, and that he shouldn’t hold back on Sonya’s account. He wonders how she can be so good and self-sacrificing. ‘It’s because I’m used to it,’ she says quietly. Ouch. Poor woman.
Nikolai obediently goes to pay a call on Marya. She notes how stiff he is, and how different from how they were before. He says that, thanks to him, his family has been driven to ruin and disgrace. Marya informs him she has more money than she knows what to do with and would love to share it with him. He doesn’t want to be known as a fortune hunter, but frankly, she couldn’t care less about that or what people think. She admits that she feels very strongly for him and has been waiting for him for so long. He breaks into an adorable smile and kisses her. Aww. I still feel badly for Sonya, though.
Pierre walks the streets of Moscow and runs into his father-in-law, who’s so broken he doesn’t even recognise Pierre right away. Vassily tells Pierre that Helene is dead, a fact that had already reached Pierre, and even though she had wronged him, Pierre’s sorry for it, because that’s a terrible way to die. Apparently Anatole’s dead as well. This double blow has proven too much for Vassily. He asks Pierre to forgive him for having wronged him. Pierre does, readily, and kindly sees the man home.
Later, Pierre goes to visit Marya and congratulate her on her engagement. They commiserate over the loss of Andrei but manage not to make it too sad and depressing. Pierre asks if Natasha was with Andrei when he died and Marya flags up the fact that Natasha is sitting right in the room with them. Natasha, clearly having matured considerably, floats over to greet him.
The three sit down to dinner and Marya mentions that Pierre is once again an eligible bachelor.
After dinner, Pierre tells them about Platon and how great he was and so immensely optimistic. Pierre says he’s trying to live life the same way Platon did. He realises how late it is and excuses himself. The ladies see him off and Natasha admits to Marya that Pierre seems different: purified, somehow.
Pierre lies in bed, thinking, while Natasha stands by the window, staring out pretty much the same way she used to with Andrei.
Pierre returns to Marya’s and asks Marya if Natasha has said anything to her about him and whether he has any hope, because he really, really loves her. Marya gently urges him to speak to Natasha himself and goes to fetch her.
Natasha appears and Pierre asks if she could love him. She says yes. So much for ‘there will never be anyone else for me, Andrei.’ Not that it’s unreasonable—she’s young and should get on with her life, and I think Andrei would agree.
Fast forward a few years. Natasha and Pierre and Nikolai and Marya and their combined families have gathered for an incredibly picturesque picnic. There are loads of kids running about and babies in arms and Andrei’s son’s a teenager now. It’s all quite delightful, but I can’t help but feel really terribly for Sonya, who’s with them and has, presumably, had to watch Marya live the life Sonya always dreamed she’d have. Everyone gets a happy ending, except for her, because life as a woman has long sucked. But I don’t think we’re supposed to think too much about that.
Well done, everyone. Seriously, big round of applause. Everything about this was beautifully done: the acting was excellent, the production values top notch. I can’t speak to this as an adaptation, having not read the book, but from what I understand, it seems that Davies got the major points while trimming waaaay back on the draggy bits about religion and philosophy which I’m sure are great for some people, but probably not for a general audience. The pace of this was good, it moved along nicely without feeling like you were being rushed. I still feel like Gillian Anderson was wasted, but that’s really my only quibble here. Nice job!
2 thoughts on “War and Peace: Peace at Last”
I too have never understood why the retreating French would take the prisoners with them instead of either shooting them or letting them go. At the best of times, prisoners have to be fed and guarded, and are a general nuisance, and when you yourself are starving and freezing, they are a total liability. It’s worth mentioning that the tactics which worked so well against Napoleon were equally effective against the Nazis in WW2. No foreigner is ever prepared for a Russian winter.
Eddie Izzard did a great bit on that:
‘Napoleon: “I’m gonna kill! I’m gonna kill! Oh! It’s a bit cold, it’s a bit cold!”
‘Hitler: “I’ve got a better idea! Oh! It’s the same idea!”‘