Earlier this week we featured Sergei Bondarchuk’s four-part film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy War and peace. You can watch the most ambitious of all film versions of War and Peace for free online at Mosfilm Youtube channel, the national studio of the Soviet Union. Although the USSR left, Mosfilm did not. Under filmmaker Karen Shakhnazarov, the studio remained a quasi-private production company and released a variety of films, many of which are steeped in Russian history and literature. Five years ago, Shakhnazarov himself made a eight-part adaptation of another beloved Tolstoy novel, Anna Karenina.
War and peace (see here) has been made into four different films. But that’s nothing compared to the at least seventeen Anna Karenina films that exist, not counting that of Shakhnazarov. It was first released in a relatively short cut, its runtime truncated to just over two and a half hours, as Anna Karenina: The Vronsky Story.
This version’s narrative focused, as you might have guessed, on the life of Anna’s irresistible aristocratic lover. Later, Russia-1 television broadcast Shakhnazarov’s work in its entirety as an eight-episode series titled simply Anna Kareninawhich you can now watch free online, in full, on Mosfilm’s Youtube channel. Stream all parts above.
In a sense, this series format is well suited to Tolstoy novel, originally published as it was in installments between 1875 and 1877. But even those who have read Anna KareninaThe author’s thousands of pages will have endless reason to be surprised by Shakhnazarov’s version, which takes the story of family, class, infidelity, faith and feudalism in which are specific to him. It also incorporates material from outside Tolstoy’s work, such as “During the Japanese War” and “Stories of the Japanese War” by Vikenty Veresaev, a Tolstoy physician, writer, and scholar who participated in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904. Like any “free adaptation”, Shakhnazarov’s version of Anna Kareninawill direct its viewers to the book – and make sure they never read it quite the same way again.
Watch the hugely ambitious Soviet film adaptation of War and peace Free Online (1966-67)
An animated introduction to Leo Tolstoy and how his great novels can boost your emotional intelligence
The art of Leo Tolstoy: see his drawings in the War & Peace Manuscript and other literary texts
Free: Watch Battleship Potemkin and other films by Sergei Eisenstein, the revolutionary Soviet filmmaker
Free online: watch Stalker, Mirror and other masterpieces by Soviet author Andrei Tarkovsky
Watch 70 movies in HD from renowned Russian studio Mosfilm: classic films, beloved comedies, Tarkovsky, Kurosawa and more
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts about cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter books about cities, the book The Stateless City: A Walk Through 21st Century Los Angeles and the video series The city in cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshallon FacebookOr on instagram.