Tons of explosives and roller skates: how the epic "War and Peace" by Sergei Bondarchuk was filmed
Tons of explosives and roller skates: how the epic "War and Peace" by Sergei Bondarchuk was filmed
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Still from the movie "War and Peace". Dir. S. Bondarchuk

A little more than half a century ago, the first part of the film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace was released on Soviet cinema screens. This film directed by Sergey Bondarchuk, became one of the most expensive in Soviet cinema. It took 6 years to shoot, and the epoch-making scene of the Battle of Borodino is considered the largest in the history of world cinema. "War and Peace" was highly praised by critics, and, among other awards, the film won an Oscar. How the filming of the epic took place - further in the review.

Still from the movie "War and Peace". Dir. S. Bondarchuk

Long before the start of filming, colossal preparatory work had been done. To recreate the atmosphere of that time, 50 museums throughout the USSR provided their exhibits for filming. About 40 factories received special orders for the production of costumes, accessories, furniture, carts, corresponding to the historical era. The Lomonosov Porcelain Factory reproduced an exact copy of a huge dinner service from the late 18th century.

Sergey Bondarchuk on the set

The work on the film can hardly be called easy. Director Sergei Bondarchuk was extremely demanding not only in relation to himself, but also to all members of the film crew. The second director and leading cameramen could not withstand such pressure. They left the project. Bondarchuk, on the other hand, brought himself to such exhaustion that in July 1964 he had a heart attack. Filming was stopped for several months.

Lyudmila Savelyeva as Natasha Rostova

The selection of actors was not an easy task. Many actresses auditioned for the role of Natasha Rostova, but this role went to the little-known graduate of the Leningrad Choreographic School Lyudmila Savelyeva. The girl happened to be on the audition, she seemed completely expressionless to the film crew. So that Lyudmila Savelyeva did not lose heart at all, Bondarchuk invited her to read an excerpt of the role from the sheet. The girl fussed, swallowed words, but something made the director invite her the next day and go through the scene again with the text already learned. When Savelyeva again appeared in front of the director, it was as if she was replaced - in front of Bondarchuk there was exactly "the same" Natasha Rostova, whom he was looking for.

Vyacheslav Tikhonov as Andrei Bolkonsky in the film War and Peace

In the role of Andrei Bolkonsky, the director saw only Innokenty Smoktunovsky, then he preferred the role of Hamlet and refused. Vyacheslav Tikhonov Sergei Bondarchuk considered too "star" actor, but his candidacy was personally insisted by the Minister of Culture Yekaterina Furtseva. Tikhonov brilliantly coped with the role.

The image of Pierre Bezukhov performed by Sergei Bondarchuk was flawless. However, for the director, this was a forced role, since he could not find a suitable candidate for this role. Bondarchuk had to gain 10 kilograms to match the image.

Sergei Bondarchuk as Pierre Bezukhov A film set where the Battle of Borodino was played out

The most exciting were the battle scenes. An incredible number of people were involved in the main battle scene of Borodino - 15 thousand infantrymen and 950 cavalrymen. To show the full scale of the action, he was filmed from a helicopter at an altitude of 300 meters. On the "battlefield" they used 23 tons of explosives, 15 thousand hand smoke grenades, 40 thousand liters of kerosene. Despite the incredible rumble and seeming randomness, no one was hurt.

Scene of the Borodino battle Scene of Natasha Rostova's first ball

The scene of Natasha Rostova's first ball turned out to be incredibly touching.The operator had to put on roller skates to be able to maneuver among the waltzing couples. Over time, this technique was adopted by many other operators.

The novel "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

The novel War and Peace is certainly an epic work. It was not only a Soviet director who was involved in filming it. It's interesting to watch what were the costumes of the main characters of "War and Peace" in the variations of 1956, 1967 and 2016.

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