Wednesday 21 August 2019

Historians hot under the collar about incest storyline in BBC's new War and Peace adaptation

Natasha (LILY JAMES) in War and Peace. PIC: BBC
Natasha (LILY JAMES) in War and Peace. PIC: BBC
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

The BBC's new War and Peace adaptation, due to hit screens in the New Year, has come under fire from historians.

The small screen adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's epic story of love and betrayal set in Russia boasts a cast of names including Jim Broadbent, Gillian Anderson, Paul Dano, Brian Cox and Lily James of Downton Abbey fame.

The series also features nude scenes and incest storyline featuring a brother and sister.

Andrew Davies, who previously adapted Pride and Prejudice, wrote the series and, speaking to The Telegraph, he defended his work on War and Peace.

Lily James as Natasha in BBC one's adaptation of War and Peace. PIC: BBC
Lily James as Natasha in BBC one's adaptation of War and Peace. PIC: BBC

“Tolstoy hints very clearly that the characters of Helene and Anatole Kuragin have been having an incestuous relationship," he said.

“The convention of the day means that Tolstoy would never have actually written the scene.”

He also added that yes, there is nudity in it and said, "When you expect someone to be nude, they are."

Speaking to The telegraph Tolstoy scholar Andrew Kaufman said the incest scenes are invented.

“That has absolutely no justification in the text. It just doesn't exist in it," he said.

“I think they may be imposing a 21st Century perspective on to a 19th Century novel. What Tolstoy is playing with in a very muted way is the fact that they have immoral values.”

Even the historical advisor on the show questions the inclusion of the incest storyline.

Dominic Lieven, professor of Russian studies at the London School of Economics, described the idea as "a bit ripe".

"You couldn't completely rule out the strangest sexual antics in young aristocratic St Petersburg, though brother-sister incest is perhaps a bit ripe.” he said, although he did say that the series "gets the spirit of Tolstoy" right.

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