My Dolokhov rant is going to go first so it’s all in one place instead of strewn throughout this post. So:
Because it’s natural to focus on your faves when watching adaptations, I will say this again: I thought I could deal with bad portrayals of my faves after the Anatole disaster of the 2007 adaptation. As great as Ken Duken is, he was all wrong for Anatole. He did the best he could with the script given him, I’m sure, but not only was the casting bad, the way the part was written was frustrating as well. So I thought I’d get over it this time too. Visually, Tom Burke is nothing like Dolokhov, but he’s not a bad actor. It could be ok, I thought. Not great, no real footage for graphics/videos, but I’ve dealt with this before. But everything about how they handled this part is bad. The way it’s written is bad, the way it’s acted is (in most scenes) wrong. I don’t even blame Burke for this, I blame the writers/directors. The people who should have known better.
I know secondary characters suffer in adaptations by having their characterization flattened immeasurably, but this is far-far beyond the usual. It’s weird, because on the surface level it’s like…well, it’s his scenes, some of his lines, but overall? It’s not just a shallow interpretation of this character, it’s often unrecognizable. And, as often is in these things, it’s not about the big things, it’s about the subtleties. Things that are shown and things that aren’t, how certain aspects are presented, what is added on that wasn’t there to begin with, inflections and mannerisms. It’s things like: Dolokhov would never accept money from Nikolai! Borrow short-term, maybe. But not just accepting financial support? The essence of this character is pride/sense of self-worth and a strive for independence. How did you people miss this? But then, I should have been prepared, I guess. It was obvious from Burke’s interviews beforehand that the characterization was going to be off-base. But I kept hoping against hope. How very naive of me, I suppose.
(Though, Burke must get some credit for that scene in the barn with Nikolai. There was, for once, a flicker of something there.)
Nikolai’s actor, on the other hand, is wonderful! I usually have zero sympathy for Nikolai during that card game, but watching this guy go through all that reminded me why I felt so bad for him the first time (and why I shipped him with Dolokhov, yea that too).
Oh, before I forget, this adaptation continues to be weird with names/forms of address. Like, lol, Dolokhov would never address Sonya as Sonya. It would always be Sofia Alexandrovna (full name + patronymic). Come on, BBC, this isn’t difficult.
I like that they included Pierre joining the Freemasons. Most adaptations don’t deal with this at all but it’s a big phase in Pierre’s life and his character development. i know they don’t do a lot with it, but at least it’s there.
James Norton is a fantastic actor, but he is WAY too emotive for Andrei.
Lol at Helene seducing a flustered Boris. How about more like she invites him to an actual party with lots of other people there, barely pays attention to him the first time, but he’s a social climber and she’s a social climber and maybe they get involved for a short time. Not to mention the idea that Boris supposedly “doesn’t want” to get married to an heiress and is actually genuinely into Helene. Lol. Did they also miss the part where Boris is a social climber like woah?
(Also, if you’re going to have the same exact scene as in the book, why don’t you just keep the dialogue? And yes, I mean Pierre and Helene’s confrontation. Although….I also mean Dolokhov’s conversation with Nikolai in the barn. Why not just keep his whole thing about how he sees people as “mine” and “not mine” and what kind of girl he wants to love and “I know people consider me a bad man”? Some of what we got in that exchange was so cheap in comparison: “You feel things very deeply don’t you?”/”Some things.” I mean, come on, what happened to “show don’t tell” anyway? I know Tolstoy is bad at it too but you’re making a visual adaptation here. Come on.)
Pierre’s interpretation continues to be a little strange, but I don’t actually care to much because man he’s such a cinnamon roll here, my gosh it’s adorable. Paul Dano is too freaking cute.
I’ve seen the ball done more effectively, honestly. I think it just suffered from what a lot of the other scenes suffer, too – everything feels just a little rushed. Tight pacing is good, but sometimes it just feels like they’re checking things off without letting even the very big moments sink in.
Overall, however, it’s better than last week’s episode.