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War and Peace

War and Peace(1968)

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By 1805, Russia is being drawn irrevocably into a struggle for survival against Napoleon. Although Prince Andrey Bolkonskiy, discontented with his life and marriage, willingly goes to war, his friend Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a wealthy count, remains behind in Saint Petersburg. Pierre's father dies, leaving the young man his title and wealth. Later, Pierre naively marries the scheming Hélène Kuragina, who is subsequently unfaithful to him. Pierre is goaded into a duel in which he severely wounds his wife's lover, Dolokhov, and he separates from Hélène. Misfortune also plagues Andrey, who is injured and captured by the French at Austerlitz. Upon his release, he returns home to find his wife, Liza, dying in childbirth. During the uneasy alliance of Russia and France, Andrey attends a lavish ball at the Rostov estate in Otradnoye and falls in love with Natasha, the 17-year-old daughter of Count Ilya Rostov. Respecting his father's wishes, Andrey agrees to postpone marriage to Natasha for a year and go abroad. Left alone, the romantic Natasha goes to Moscow with her father and is swept off her feet by the dashing young Anatole Kuragin, Hélène's brother. Natasha attempts to elope with Anatole, but Pierre, a longtime family friend, learns of the plan and prevents their departure, informing Natasha that Anatole is married. Natasha has already broken her engagement, however, and Andrey cannot forgive her. Despondent over the unhappy affair and the loss of Andrey's love, Natasha falls ill and finds comfort only in the attentions of the devoted Pierre. Then the shaky peace collapses, and Napoleon leads his armies across the Russian frontier. No longer able to ignore political events, Pierre visits the front and is witness to the Battle of Borodino, after which Kutuzov, the Russian commander-in-chief, is forced to order a retreat from Moscow. The city, quickly engulfed in flames, is left to the mercy of the French. Pierre, deeply moved by what he has seen, refuses to evacuate the city, foolishly hoping to find the opportunity to assassinate Napoleon. As the French triumphantly march into Moscow, Andrey, wounded at Borodino, is evacuated and later dies after being reunited with Natasha. Despite Napoleon's victory, he is unable to negotiate a peace treaty with Kutuzov, and, without supplies and reinforcements, French morale quickly disintegrates. Left with no alternative, Napoleon orders a retreat from Moscow, taking along the Russian prisoners, among them Pierre. But Napoleon has not reckoned with the bitter Russian winter, and his troops fall by the hundreds on the vast frozen expanse. Seizing the opportunity, Kutuzov attacks at Berezina and routs the remnants of the French Army. Pierre is freed and learns that Hélène has died. With the momentous 8-year conflict at an end, Pierre seeks out Natasha, whom he has long loved, and asks her to become his wife.