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War And Peace (2016)

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Editor's Note:

Discuss War and Peace (2016) Here!

 

Starts tomorrow on BBC One, and airing on A&E, Lifetime, and History starting January 18th in the US.

I've never read the book, but I've meant to for ages.

Out of interest, did anyone listen to the 10-hour radio version the BBC did last year, starring John Hurt? http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04wz7q2

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My main thought on the first episode is that it feels very British. So far at least it's fairly indistinguishable from other BBC period dramas, visually at least.

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I've really been looking forward to this show; the 2007 version was really not good. I read the novel first time as tween (I seem to remember skipping all the "war" parts and only reading the love story) and it's one of my favourite classics (not in the least because it is so awesomely soapy. The Idiot it is not ;))

 

So far I'm happy with both the casting and the direction the series is going in - although there's some classic Andrew Davies in there. I don't remember the  Kuragin-siblings' relationship being quite so...explicit.

 

 

My main thought on the first episode is that it feels very British. So far at least it's fairly indistinguishable from other BBC period dramas, visually at least.

I think the war-scenes at least feels bigger in scope than your usual BBC/ITV fare. But the spot-the-actor/actress is alive and well and that might magnify the sense of Britishness...

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I just saw a trailer for this, and it took me forever to realize it was War and Peace. Its just so very...British. I haven't seen it yet, so I`ll reserve judgement, but I think the BBCness might take me out of the story a bit.  

 

I love War and Peace though, so I`m sure I`ll end up watching at some point. 

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I'm surprised you went with a Days or Our Lives comparison - it really felt like you were building to Game of Thrones.

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Okay. I'll watch James Norton's sweet, ginger self in just about anything (and I'm throwing my hat in the ring right here, right now, to write Grantchester, season 2 particles for previously.tv, should they be needed--and I think they are.) BUT that Hopkins clip? Now that was hottt. Off to Netflix!

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Its just so very...British. I haven't seen it yet, so I`ll reserve judgement, but I think the BBCness might take me out of the story a bit.

That did not bother me.  It was the occasional slip of what seem to be modern slang "yeah" instead of "yes".  Gillian Anderson was distracting too.  I also could have used an an occasional reminder of who was who, not just were we where.

 

That said, I was just as happy to turn off the sound and watch all the beautiful scenery, interiors, costumes and the horses! The cavalry charge had some magnificent war horses, I want to guess that they were mostly Andalusian.  I would love to hear from someone who might know.

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As far as I can tell -- for cord cutters -- this is available free on the free Roku Lifetime network although the first episode (which is premiering now, is not yet on their stream menu ... hooray! Sounds like this version represents a solid effort for the new century or something ... and quite a lot of things are going to keep being re-made in high-def with young and younger casts (and more and more lavish production values, scenery, clothes, jewels) because they've discovered that people who like this sort of thing (extended drama) really like this sort of thing, and buy DVDs (and want to see faces they recognize in the lead parts).
I've been rooting for Paul Dano, who I think is a promising young actor in a field full of pretty faces, and his notices in this have been good ... Now just to access the thing ...

(I should add that I thought the Kiera Knightly / Hans Matheson Dr. Zhivago was very interesting and deserved better appreciation than it got. Of course it paled in comparison with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif ... but in many ways was closer to the original (very long) story that had been condensed for a 2 hour movie. Nuf. 

Edited by SusanSunflower

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It's been about five years since I read War and Peace, so a lot of the details elude me (Sonya was the character who stuck with me most, partly because I think that whole story is so different from how it would likely be handled now).  I thought this was decent so far.  They did a pretty credible job with the combat sequences, given the realities of TV budgeting.

 

"Tuppence Middleton" has to be up there on the list of stereotypically British names.

 

Like I said earlier, I don't remember a lot of the specifics about the novel structure, but Natasha seemed oddly marginal in the opening part, considering she's the female lead.

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The gold standard for War and Peace is the set of movies directed by Sergei Bondarchuk, which were two movies, each three hours long.  I saw it twice in theaters.  It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1969.

 

This one, and every other adaptation I've ever seen, are pale imitations.  As a small example, the clouds that Andrei looks up at on the battlefield:  in this, they were wispy and far away; in the Russian version they are magnificent clouds, worthy of being wondered over.  

 

And who casts Jim Broadbent and doesn't cast him as Kutuzov?

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I haven't read the book or seen any of the other film versions.  Sometimes that's a good thing -- I can take this for what it is, no comparisons.

I like it so far.  I like the music in the battle scenes, and I like the way it's filmed -- sweeping camera shots, even the interiors -- makes it feel "big".

It's fun, seeing all those familiar faces and trying to remember where I saw them before.  "Hey!  It's that preacher kid from There Will Be Blood!"  And "Brian Cox!  He's still alive?"

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I haven't read War and Peace either.  Now I don't feel so ashamed anymore, lol.  I vaguely remember seeing a movie version but I've forgotten most of what I saw.  So this TV version is entertaining and I love the battle scenes, costumes, and the music.  I'm also happy to see Paul Dano and Brian Cox.

 

My only problem right now is keeping the characters straight.  One thing I do know is that I hope Paul Dano's bitch of a wife gets thrown out of the house. 

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It's been about five years since I read War and Peace, so a lot of the details elude me (Sonya was the character who stuck with me most, partly because I think that whole story is so different from how it would likely be handled now).  I thought this was decent so far.  They did a pretty credible job with the combat sequences, given the realities of TV budgeting.

 

 

Like I said earlier, I don't remember a lot of the specifics about the novel structure, but Natasha seemed oddly marginal in the opening part, considering she's the female lead.

I know everything is condensed but from what I recall of the book, what seems odd is that the women are all so prevalent.  I recall this as "a man's book" meaning the story of man (Pierre and maybe Andre) as the grand scope of the Napoleonic War envelopes their lives.  I think that most if not all the adaptions take the time to flesh out (npi) the characters of the women in the story.

 

"Tuppence Middleton" has to be up there on the list of stereotypically British names.

I love that name "Tuppence" ever since I first encountered it in Agatha Christie's "Partners in Crime"!

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This all felt very Downton Abbey, St. Petersburg edition, but I will say its hard not to get swept up in the spectacle of the whole thing. The battle sequences were very well done, and its all beautifully shot, and the locations are wonderful.  

 

That being said, the very British feel to it (beyond the accents, its just a very strong feeling of British period drama) is taking me out of the story from time to time. Its the cliff notes version of War and Peace, which is understandable, but makes it hard to capture what made the book special. 

 

The music is amazing. Its my favorite thing so far. 

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total waste of Gillian Anderson. I figured she was there to prove to the czar that napoleon wasn't an alien. So far, her function seems to be to buffer Pierre, first to try to keep him from proclaiming liberte, egalite, et fraternite to a bunch of saber carrying nobleman, then later when he gets his inheritance, to make sure he uses the right fork. Anyone could have done that. I hope her character gets a larger role as the story proceeds.

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Criminey, the locations are spectacular. I literally (no, really) gasped at that enormous white room with the plasterwork that Pierre and... somebody pedi-conferenced in to. It was maybe on screen for 30 seconds. How does one get to be a location scout? Where do I sign up?

 

I've never read W&P, but this does seem like the Cliffs Notes version, which, given only eight hours of run time, I suppose it must. Some of the relationships could have been made a bit clearer (is Stephen Rea's prince related to Pierre somehow?), but I just gloss over it and assume everyone is everyone else's cousin, however distant.

Dano and Rea are walking away with this and not looking back. Poor, dreamy James Norton, given a character who's is all interior and directors telling him to smile less. What's an actor to do? Good thing he looks great in those sumptuous costumes.

 

I'm watching this on Lifetime, and every commercial break is an arghh...

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I'm watching this on Lifetime, and every commercial break is an arghh...

 

It's bad, even watching from the DVR.  Shouldn't this be on PBS?  It's disconcerting, for sure.

 

I looked at the Wiki and it doesn't say that Pierre is related to the Kuragins.  That was confusing, because it seemed like the Prince had a reason to think he'd be in the will.  Pierre's father -- in that brief time we saw him -- he looked SO familiar, but his IMDB credits show nothing that I've seen before. 

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Criminey, the locations are spectacular. I literally (no, really) gasped at that enormous white room with the plasterwork that Pierre and... somebody pedi-conferenced in to. It was maybe on screen for 30 seconds. How does one get to be a location scout? Where do I sign up?

 

I've never read W&P, but this does seem like the Cliffs Notes version, which, given only eight hours of run time, I suppose it must. Some of the relationships could have been made a bit clearer (is Stephen Rea's prince related to Pierre somehow?), but I just gloss over it and assume everyone is everyone else's cousin, however distant.

Dano and Rea are walking away with this and not looking back. Poor, dreamy James Norton, given a character who's is all interior and directors telling him to smile less. What's an actor to do? Good thing he looks great in those sumptuous costumes.

 

I'm watching this on Lifetime, and every commercial break is an arghh...

 

Pierre isn't related to Prince Vasili Kuragin.  It wasn't a given that Pierre would inherit Count Bezukov's estate because he was one of many illegitimate children (granted his father's favorite).  Prince Kuragin was a good friend of Count Bezukov's and thought he had a chance at inheriting.  Unpleasant surprise for Kuragin to discover that the Count legitimized Pierre so he could inherit the title, AND he left him all the money. 

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I'm giving this another try - totally fell asleep the first time - but I'm not really a fan of the super duper HD they filmed this in. It works for the exteriors but anytime they are inside I feel like it makes things seem kind of . . . flat? I don't know if I'm making any sense, but it's bothering me.

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Pierre isn't related to Prince Vasili Kuragin.  It wasn't a given that Pierre would inherit Count Bezukov's estate because he was one of many illegitimate children (granted his father's favorite).  Prince Kuragin was a good friend of Count Bezukov's and thought he had a chance at inheriting.  Unpleasant surprise for Kuragin to discover that the Count legitimized Pierre so he could inherit the title, AND he left him all the money. 

 

In the book, Prince K's wife was a niece or some other relation of Count's and she was the one eligible to inherit something if the state would be divided amongst the female relatives. 

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total waste of Gillian Anderson.

 

In my view, there is no such thing. :) True, it'd be good if she had a meatier role, but any Gillian is better than no Gillian!

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We're snowed in, so this was nice to watch since it feels like a Russian Winter here. First of all, I'm pleasantly surprised Lifetime broadcast this. Hopefully, they're changing their programming somewhat. I enjoyed it and found it entertaining. This may be due to the fact that I had no research or term paper to write about it. Yes, it did have a British feel but I thought it was lovely. I haven't looked it up in IMDB. It has the same feel as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I'm curious about the production team.

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Never read the book. It was difficult to keep track of character names and relationships. But of course the commercial interruptions are having a devastating impact on the movie, an atrocity we are all too sadly accustomed too. 

 

Is there any particular reason why Andrei was suicidal? Was he just depressive? Or was his indifference to his wife supposed to be suggesting he was homosexual?

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Is there any particular reason why Andrei was suicidal? Was he just depressive? Or was his indifference to his wife supposed to be suggesting he was homosexual?

 

Haven't read the book either.  My take on Andrei is that he's disillusioned with Russian society and with himself. 

 

I don't think he's gay -- he just married the wrong woman.  Also, he might be looking for adventure.  War is an adventure to some. 

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Haven't read the book either.  My take on Andrei is that he's disillusioned with Russian society and with himself. 

 

I don't think he's gay -- he just married the wrong woman.  Also, he might be looking for adventure.  War is an adventure to some. 

 

Your first line is correct. I don't  want to spoil the book too much, but I feel James Norton is doing the best he could in this situation.

 

Tolstoy is a favourite of mine, but it has been a decade since I read this last. However, it's all coming back to me now. I'm not loving the casting. It's working in some areas (Norton, Boradbent, the General), but I'm feeling less enthused or indifferent in others. The version I watched immediately after reading the book was the 1956 King Vidor version with Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda, and Mel Ferrer. Hepburn is one of the best Natashas and I really liked Fonda as Pierre.

 

Back to this one: it's gorgeous to look at and Davies scripts always amuse me with his weird, scandalous injections.

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Maybe I'll have to read the book. Andrei in this TV version to my eyes is clearly suicidal, actively seeking death in combat. What I'm not seeing is any clue as to how his wife fails to measure up to his wishes (whatever they may be.) 

 

But so far as some sort of Weltschmerz over the awfulness of Tsarist society goes, sacrificial heroism in glorious battle against the enemies of the Tsar is about as decisive an endorsement as the Tsar can hope for, save for glorious victory over his enemies. People who genuinely feel stifled by the Tsar are less likely to my mind to try to kill for it. I suppose the dude could just be suffering from major depression which might be interesting in itself, except the character is just whisked on stage to die gloriously. But, for the Tsar? Is the implication that heroism in a bad cause is kind of crazy?

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Is the implication that heroism in a bad cause is kind of crazy?

 

The cause itself isn't what's important.  What's important is that there IS a cause.  If Andrei were French, he'd be dying for Napoleon.  British, Wellington (or was it Nelson? I don't know.)

 

A reason to live can also seem like a reason to die, once a person has been infected with that ennui common to the upper classes in certain periods in history.  It's hard to be altruistic and intelligent and to be forced to live in such a superficial society.  Pierre is also altruistic and smart but he's newly rich -- his eyes have always been open (except where women are concerned).  He'll have an easier time than Andrei -- he has choices.  Andrei doesn't.

 

Also, Andrei's not definitely dead yet.  His eyelids were flickering. 

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Russians ... with British accents!  

 

Andrei has no idea what he really wants.  I think he's just so bored that his military career is really about thrill-seeking, or trying to do something "important".  

 

Pierre went from not having to take his life seriously - since nobody expected much from him - to having the responsibility of a title and money and land.   Unfortunately, now he's a target for users, like Helene.  The intrigue that almost cheated Pierre out of his inheritance was pretty interesting - I'm betting we'll see the woman who helped him again, because he certainly owes her a big favor now!

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Why you no dead, Andrei??   I guess I'll have to read the book to find out ....     but, oh, poor Lise!

 

And how is Dolokhov not dead?!  I guess he's too evil to die?  

 

Nickolai - you giant dumbass.   I did feel a little bad when he broke down crying over costing his father all that money.  But .... ugh.  Giant idiot.

 

Oh, Pierre.  He was doing so well ... until he invited Helene back into his life.  Big mistake!  

 

That ballroom scene was super awkward until Andrei asked Natasha to dance.  I was cringing for her when Boris looked over at her and was like "aaannnd ... no."

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I was figuring they had given Natasha those horrible bangs so that she could ditch them when she was supposed to look more grown-up (seeing as they're using the same actress to play her throughout).  Lily James has been doing a very good job so far (she's been on quite a roll the last year or so).  

 

The character who stayed with me the most when I read the novel back circa 2009/2010 was Sonya, so I liked that she got a bit more time here.  I don't recall ever seeing the actress in anything, but I liked her work.  I was also a bit amused at the bit where Count Rostov calls Natasha over to converse with Prince Andrei, leaving Sonya in place with the implicit "you, poor relation, keep providing musical accompaniment."

 

In the opening scene I started humming "Ten Duel Commandments" from Hamilton (a connection aided by the fact that Phillipa Soo played Natasha in the musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812).

Edited by SeanC
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British, Wellington (or was it Nelson? I don't know.)

Wellington was the the most famous British general of the Napoleonic Wars.  Nelson was the great admiral; he died the same year this story starts.

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To be quite honest ....what sealed the deal for me was seeing Tom Burke's name in the credits. He is beyond amazing in The Musketeers ....which everyone should be watching because it's fun, swashbuckly and has the most awesomest forway bromance EVA!

I would watch Tom Bur read the phonebook ...but of course he is also great as the devilish Dholokov. So this should tide me over until BBC deigns tp air SEASON 3 of THE MUSKETEERS.

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It was kind of hilarious watching James Norton (b.1985) and Paul Dano (b.1984) anguish over Lilly James (b.1989) being too young and knowing her since she was a child. I know that Andrei and Pierre are supposed to be much older than Natasha, but it seems silly in this adaptation to pretend that they are not all contemporaries. 

Edited by absnow54

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Andrei's recovers from major depression because of Luv? Don't think it works like that Count Tolstoy! For me this is standing out in a bad way because so much of this comes across like Tolstoy actually had a clue about how varied people are.

 

Not understanding the nature of the Rostov's "ruin." At this point, it just seems like they're having trouble keeping up the appearance of being rich, or affording enough pleasure to fill their idle days perhaps. 

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I've actually started reading the book and it's not boring at all (except the war parts...I do try but they don't interest me) . All the soap opera parts are even more soapy in the book and Pierre has the most hilarious inner monologues (especially about when he is "courting" his wife. Like he sees her as a woman but says, "But she's stupid!") I'm a little more than halfway through and can't put it down!

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Not understanding the nature of the Rostov's "ruin." At this point, it just seems like they're having trouble keeping up the appearance of being rich, or affording enough pleasure to fill their idle days perhaps. 

Basically, the estate is so indebted that they can't realistically expect to get out of them while still living in the manner their social status requires (particularly if they're going to marry off their kids).  Since they're aristocrats they can keep getting new loans, etc. based on status.

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I'm still watching but I'm annoyed with some of the actors who are British, like Lilly James, who can't speak with a Russian accent.  They're not even trying.

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I fully realize that this is the Cliffs Notes version of War and Hats, er, Peace, but I had to laugh at Pierre wandering about one of this estates with the estate agent and talking about building a school for both boys and girls (!). I bet that scene was 20 pages long in the book, with Tolstoy gassing on about peasants' rights and land reform. Ditto Andrei staring pensively at that lightning-struck tree on his estate; you know that internal My Life Is So Aimless, Poor Rich Handsome Me interior monologue went on for days on the page.

 

Still, I'm glued to this, if for no other reason than the eye candy. That night shot of the Czar's Palace exterior! I don't know if that was CGI-enhanced, but well done, show. And the Czar's ball was spectacular, too.

 

Not spectacular? The commercials. You're killing me, Lifetime! You couldn't get a corporate sponsor like Viking River Cruises or Mercedes-Benz or Stolichnaya to pay for limited commercial breaks? I'll definitely watch this again when the DVDs come out.

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I'm still watching but I'm annoyed with some of the actors who are British, like Lilly James, who can't speak with a Russian accent.  They're not even trying.

That's a bog-standard trope for adaptations like this.  Them speaking English with Russian accents isn't, strictly speaking, any more authentic anyway, so it doesn't bother me on that level.

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I fully realize that this is the Cliffs Notes version of War and Hats, er, Peace, but I had to laugh at Pierre wandering about one of this estates with the estate agent and talking about building a school for both boys and girls (!). I bet that scene was 20 pages long in the book, with Tolstoy gassing on about peasants' rights and land reform. Ditto Andrei staring pensively at that lightning-struck tree on his estate; you know that internal My Life Is So Aimless, Poor Rich Handsome Me interior monologue went on for days on the page.

 

Hehe. Actually, the book is really long because there are a lot of random characters and way more war and political discussion scenes. A lot of us find the "peace" parts very readable since it's full of gossip and more or less what you see on screen. While there are a lot of inner monologues, there is lot of dialogue between the characters so things move along in those parts.

 

The war sections are worse and Andrei does get very emo in them.

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Have to say, this is tempting me to read War and Peace. I've read Anna Karenina twice, so I know the style I'd be getting into. (Skim Levin blathering on about The Land in order to get back to the good society gossip about the Karenins, et al.) Anyone have any recommendations as to a good W&P translation? The ancient Penguin Anna K I have is by Constance Garnett (I think...), and she seems a bit Victorian.

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That's a bog-standard trope for adaptations like this.  Them speaking English with Russian accents isn't, strictly speaking, any more authentic anyway, so it doesn't bother me on that level.

For as long as there have been adaptations of anything, the BBC accent or "Received Pronunciation" is the go to choice for non-Americans.

 

Here is the TV Trope page on  "The Queen's Latin"

"And you never have Romans who are Italians! They're always played by some English actor going 'Oh Thomas, where is my brother, Fellatio? Bring him hither.'"

— Robin Williams

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Have to say, this is tempting me to read War and Peace. I've read Anna Karenina twice, so I know the style I'd be getting into. (Skim Levin blathering on about The Land in order to get back to the good society gossip about the Karenins, et al.) Anyone have any recommendations as to a good W&P translation? The ancient Penguin Anna K I have is by Constance Garnett (I think...), and she seems a bit Victorian.

Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky are the gold standard for Russian-to-English translation (also, the paperback for their version of War and Peace is gorgeous).

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I know they filmed this in Lithuania, Latvia and Russia, but does anyone know if the "Czar's Palace" exterior is for real? Because that was spectacular. Ditto the ballroom scene. (Norton said in an interview they filmed it in "Catherine's Summer Palace" in St. Petersburg.)

Gah... with the commercial breaks!

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