What You Need To Know:
WAR AND PEACE has considerable Christian content. Several times characters offer sincere prayers. The movie is a story of the wealthy being faced with severe hardship and learning not to be discouraged by suffering. Regrettably, the movie ends with an ambiguous theological quotation from the novel’s author, Tolstoy. Thus, the movie promotes reliance on God, but the movie’s conclusion has an ambiguous theology. WAR AND PEACE also contains some war violence.
(CCC, BBB, FR, Pa, VV, AA, P, M) Very strong Christian, biblical, moral with a confusing closing theological statement, considerable prayer and praise of God for his deliverance, and some characters are pagan, but their behavior is condemned, not condoned; no foul language; a man is shot but not killed in a duel, a battle scene contains considerable war violence and killing, and some firing squad executions; no sex; upper male nudity of a man in a tub; some alcohol use with drunkenness; and, nothing else objectionable.
WAR AND PEACE is an epic three-hour movie like GONE WITH THE WIND, showing the impact of war on a family. This story of the impact of Napoleon’s march on Moscow has considerable Christian content but earns a caution for war violence and a strong instance of false theology.
Natasha (Audrey Hepburn), like Scarlett in GONE WITH THE WIND, is an attractive girl who wins the hearts of several men. As the movie opens, several high society Russians are anxious to go to war against Napoleon. Pierre (Henry Fonda) isn’t one of them, however. He’s a student of philosophy trying to understand the meaning of life. He is the result of an illicit relationship, but when his father dies he inherits great wealth. He has long been a close friend of Natasha, but he marries Princess Helene, a woman he doesn’t love.
Natasha is captivated by Andrei, a widower whose wife died in childbirth. He is captivated by her as well, but Andrei’s father considers Natasha of a lower class and talks Andrei into waiting a year before marriage. Andrei goes off on a diplomatic mission followed by a stint in the Russian Army fighting Napoleon.
While Andrei is gone Natasha falls for Anatol, a womanizing officer out for a brief affair. Andrei is despondent when he learns of Natasha’s new affections. Pierre exposes Anatol’s ill intentions to his friend Natasha. She seeks forgiveness from Andrei but doesn’t get it.
Pierre goes to the front to see Andrei and speaks in Natasha’s favor. However, Andrei is gravely injured in the next day’s battle.
As Napoleon approaches Moscow, Natasha’s family flees. With Natasha’s pleading, they take a group of wounded soldiers with them. Unknown to her, at first, one of the wounded in their company was Andrei. Like Atlanta in GONE WITH THE WIND, Moscow burns. The lavish lifestyle of old is gone.
WAR AND PEACE has considerable Christian content. Several times characters offer sincere prayers. When Napoleon begins his retreat from Moscow, without a battle, the supreme commander of the Russian Army gets on his knees before a creche and says, “Thou hast heard our prayer. Russia is saved.” When captured by the Russians, Pierre meets a devout Christian prisoner who explains to him about how God’s ways are higher than man’s ways.
This version of WAR AND PEACE ends with a quotation from the novel’s author Tolstoy, “The most difficult thing – but an essential one – is to love life, to love it even while one suffers, because life is all. Life is God, and to love life means to love God.” Of course, this statement could be interpreted to support the love of Jesus Christ since He said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” However, it is ambiguous enough that one might infer that you should love your own life, in contrast to John 12:25 where Jesus says, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Further, one could read into the statement at the end of the movie some pantheism. Of course, when the movie was produced, Christianity was prevalent, and there may have been no confusion. Tolstoy defined himself as Christian, but had some erroneous views.
WAR AND PEACE is a story of the wealthy being faced with severe hardship and learning not to be discouraged by suffering. Reliance on God is promoted in the movie. The greatest joy we can experience, even in suffering, is the knowledge that our life on earth is but a short opportunity to serve God in a blip of time. Our eternal life is made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus. When we focus our attention on our heavenly Father, He enables us to use everything we might experience in this life for His glory.