Reading for Tuesday, 3 February

There’s not really a lot of plot in this chapter, just a lot of description.  Again, as with all Tolstoy battle scenes, we kind of start on the fringes of the action, gradually being drawn in (much like walking forwards into the action or a handheld camera being moved forward).

Explosions and sounds have been a lot of things in Tolstoy’s battle scenes.  There was the terrifying moment on the bridge right back in Book 2.  But I don’t think until now they’ve been beautiful.

Pierre comes up and looks around the battlefield and the whole thing is so spectacular, he just wants to be down amongst it.  The funny thing is, I understand what he means.  Or maybe it’s a male thing, I don’t know.  But many times I’ve watched the massive battle scenes on films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gettysburg, Return of the King and, of course, the Bondarchuk War and Peace which trumps the lot of them – and been blown away and dazzled by the battle scenes.  There is something spectacular and breathtaking in large numbers of soldiers meeting together on a field of battle.

Of course, this is the point, isn’t it?  It all looks beautiful when it’s on paper or when viewed from a distance – but it’s the close up where people are dying and blood is being spilled.

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4 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.30 – Pretty Explosions

  1. I saw this chapter in very much the same way as you did, Matt – an akmost paradoxical description of the grandeur and beauty of war. As before, it all merges with nature – but here, from Pierre’s perspective, that only seems to add to spectacular magic of it all. I guess that’s the important thing here – that we are seeing all of this through Pierre’s eyes and, even without knowing anything about what comes, we can pretty safely assume that a character as developed and central as Pierre is sure to go on a fairly dynamic journey, in terms of his perceptions of war, before this is all over.

    But, even so, that doesn’t alter the fact that there really is, in a strange, removed way, a certain awesome beauty here – surely, as you say, Matt, because we are viewing it from a distance, and not through the eyes of people whose limbs and lives are being destroyed by those booming cannon shots.

    But then, just as we saw the banality of a cold set against the terror of a battle in the last chapter, so, in this chapter, we see all that awe-inspiring majesty set against the clumsy, bumbling ridiculousness of Pierre getting on a horse, and his glasses falling off. This is just sooooooo Tolstoy!!!

  2. When I look at scenes of war – today’s scenes, I mean – such as attacks in the Middle East, I always notice the birds and what they’re doing . . . back in 2002 (I think it was) when Israel went into the Gaza Strip with their big tanks, they were showing it on CNN . . . I remember noticing the birds careening around in the dusty air.

    Also, I remember a scene in Afghanistan, when the troops were in there after Bin Laden . . . there was a scene with big guns being fired and things (grenades, I guess) being lobbed back and forth. At that time, the thing I noticed was yellow wildflowers.

    Then there was ‘Shock n’ Awe’ . . . in Baghdad . . . what I noticed was the moon.

    I wrote a few poems about that – one of the got published – I’ve forgotten which one – I think it was ‘Moon Over Baghdad’.

    But the thing that engages me is that no matter what’s going on, the birds and other nature will go on, no matter what we’re doing.

  3. Actually, that is an interesting approach to contrast nature and war. I don’t know if you saw the film, ‘The Thin Red Line’ (a film which I thought was quite boring when I first saw it, but I’ve since grown to appreciate more) but it would often juxtapose nature scenes (the trees, animals, etc.) with the war that was going on.

  4. Haven’t seen The Thn Red Line Matt – but I just thought I’d use that as an excuse to mention the film I did see a couple of days ago, and was just utterly bowled over by – “The Passion of Joan of Arc”. It’s 1929 silent movie by Carl Dreyer and is quite a classic, so maybe you know it. But Criterion have a fantastic release of it with Richard Einhorn’s oratorio “Voices of Light” as the soundtrack – music that was written in the 1990s, inspired by the film. It’s a great way to watch a great film – mainly famous for the acting of Renee Falconetti, who does an absolutely stunning job as Jeanne. A great deal of the film is simply close ups of her anguished, sad or terrified, sometimes ecstatic, face. It’s quite short – 82 minutes – but just sensational.

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