BBC returning to the classics for new series

One of the things that the BBC is best known for is the turning of classic novels into successful television serials.

Their latest adaptation – War and Peace - is screened on Sunday at 9pm on BBC1. It is a book which is perhaps more talked about than actually read.

This time it has been adapted by Andrew Davies, who has been behind many of the BBC’s recent adaptations. Some viewers might remember that this is not the first time Tolstoy’s epic novel has been adapted for television by the BBC.

It was previous turned into a 20 episode serial in 1972 which made Anthony Hopkins into a huge star. This version – which is available to buy cheaply on DVD - was mainly made on video tape and is rather theatrical in the way it was made. This new version is very filmic and is beautifully made - but it is also rather more explicit in certain respects. It is also considerable shorter at only six episodes of around an hour each.

The series centres around three main characters. Firstly there is Pierre Bezukhov, who is a great thinker, but because of his positive attitude towards Napoleon he is seen as rather an outsider in Russian society. Then there is his friend Andrei Bolkonsky who is somewhat cynical and who is in a rather unhappy marriage. He longs to win honour in battle.

Finally there is Natasha Rostova who is full of energy and who is determined to live life to the full. The stellar cast also includes – Gillian Anderson, Jim Broadbent, Geta Scacchi, Brian Cox, Adrian Edmonson, Tom Burke, Aisling Loftus, and Aneurin Barnard. Many of the problems the characters face still resonate with us today.