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The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (2007)

Ken Burns , Lynn Novick  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (820 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Directors: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Widescreen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: October 2, 2007
  • Run Time: 900 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (820 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000R7NBMK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,351 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The War will be a seven - episode series, produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, that will examine the myriad ways in which the Second World War touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America. By telling the stories of ordinary people in four quintessentially American towns – Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota – the series will portray this enormous worldwide catastrophe on an intimate, human scale. The War will intertwine vivid eyewitness accounts of the harrowing realities of life on the front lines with reminiscences of Americans who never left their home towns, and who tried their best to carry on with the business of daily life while their fathers and brothers and sons were overseas. The film will honor and celebrate the bravery, endurance, and sacrifice, of the generation of Americans who lived through what will always be known simply as The War.

Creating epic documentaries about war is nothing new for Ken Burns, nor is the subject of the Second World War, which never ceases to be a popular subject of films and TV shows. Yet with The War, Burns has definitely succeeded in breaking new ground, exploring in depth the effect of the war on common Americans, and not just the soldiers of The Greatest Generation that fought it. As the narration says at the beginning, "The war affected people in every house, on every street in every town in America." This is nothing less than an attempt to show how the war altered the lives of an entire nation through the portrayal of four individuals from four communities--Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alambama; Luverne, Minnesota; and Sacramento, California--that could represent any town in the country that went through the war. The result is another stunning achievement for Burns and co-director Lynn Novick. Together the filmmaking team succeeds in bringing the war home through the testimonies, letters, and footage of the people from these towns. The storytelling is compelling--Burns and Novick manage to find the most vivid, intimate, and personal dimensions of a global catastrophe--and brought to life with exceptional voice work from marquee stars like Tom Hanks, Alan Arkin, and Samuel L. Jackson. Much of the footage is brilliantly restored; even the most die-hard History Channel buff will see clips here that they've never viewed before. Many old grainy family films look almost as clean and bright as if they were just shot using a modern camera with black-and-white film (keeping in mind that most of the footage was shot without sound, the audio effects work on The War is particularly impressive and should bring attention to the underappreciated work of the foley artist). It took Burns and Novick six years to make this seven-part, 15-hour film--not surprising, really, considering the miles of footage they must have accumulated in the course of their research--and the time and effort shows in the results. The DVD also includes a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, extensive commentaries, and more, in addition to a companion book, The War: An Intimate History. --Daniel Vancini

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
292 of 301 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The War Hits Home September 25, 2007
This series is not a comprehensive account of the Second World War - it was not meant to be. It is unabashedly Americentric - and a "Peoples History" of WWII. It does not chronicle every detail of American involvement in places like North Africa( for that, read Rick Atkinson's Pulitzer winner An Army at Dawn - 5 stars). There are no generals or politicians. It fails to chronicle the struggles of my in-laws during the Blitz or much of the suffering felt around the globe during this terrible period of our history. It is not the BBC's The World at War. Why remake The World at War? I was fortunate enough to attend the premier in Waterbury Connecticut, where Mr. Burns addressed all of these issues. The War tries to convey how this momentous period defined the lives in four American towns that could really be Anytown, USA. It tries to explain why my grandfather has never really been able to speak about his experiences and his refrain of, "I don't need to see the movie, I starred in the original." It also explains much about my grandmother and the world my parents grew up in. Some of the hundreds of veterans at the screening were watching with their families for the first time what they had spent half a century trying to forget and had never been able to talk about. The emotion in the Palace Theater by the end of the screening was almost overwhelming. Most of the men who fought this war are dead, and the rest soon will be. The documentary tries to capture what remains of their stories before it is too late. I doubt most of the men fighting over there were as overly concerned with a complete picture and full understanding of the war as they were staying alive and hoping to return home. Few documentaries have explored in great depth the homefront beyond the newsreels of Rosie the Riveter. Read more ›
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153 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give the guy a break. September 25, 2007
It sure would be nice if people would quit trying to project their own agendas onto this documentary. Ken Burns didn't set out to make the ultimate World War Two narrative; just because a bunch of people expected that he would, doesn't mean that his film is somehow lacking.

Burns did exactly what he said he was going to do: tell the American experience of World War Two from the point of view of everyday, average American citizens.

I'm sure that Burns and co-producer Lynn Novick would be the first to agree that viewers looking for more "big picture" information (about political alliances, military strategy, technological development, the war's global impact) would do well to supplement this series with other sources of information. Burns isn't telling those stories, and the omissions are on purpose. This film looks at the war from a different angle, adding a new layer of social history to the big stories that have already been told. I think people should judge this work on the merits of the goals that Burns set out for himself, and not simply project their own personal historical and political wishlists onto it. (Axton)
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228 of 254 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FUBAR September 30, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
After watching the latest episode of "The War" - FUBAR...I now know why my father who served this county during WW II did not like Thanksgiving. All those years of never knowing, and to learn 20 years after his death why he felt the way he did. I'm sure that by the end of the series, I will understand why he felt the same about Christmas. Till the day he died, he refused to talk about being a Army medic in WW II. I have kept all the letters he and my mother wrote each other during this time. I've never been able to read these letters, but now feel it is time to do so.......My prayers and respect for all who served. For those still alive - God Bless.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it October 1, 2007
After watching the HBO DVD program "Band of Brothers" this summer I became interested in WWII history. As a late baby-boomer I had forgotten much of what I had ever learned about this time period other than Pearl Harbor, D-day, and the two atom bombs the US dropped on Japan.

Ken Burns has done an outstanding job with this new series. He tells the history of the war in it its many theaters, but more importantly, he tells the history from the average person's viewpoint. This is what makes the series sometimes hard to watch because it makes the horrors of war all too real. Hearing a private fighting in the Phillipines realize that his life is "expendable", hearing a d-day veteran who lost his brother in the same campaign say that he would have rather returned without his arms and legs than without his brother, seeing the massive toll of lives in lesser known (at least to my generation) operations such as market garden brings the history of this war into our hearts and minds. I've learned about America's isolationist policy before entering the war as well as much more detail about the war. It was a horrible war and my heart aches for all of the lives lost. I hope this scope of war is never again fought on our planet. This is why I'm purchasing this series - for my children to watch and learn from when they are old enough. This is history that should not be forgotten. Thank you Ken Burns.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique October 6, 2007
I think people should see all seven parts before passing judgment. A recent review labeled THE WAR "garbage", indicating it was too "feminist". If this person had seen the episode entitled FUBAR and Burns' description of the Peleliu campaign, she would, I think, feel otherwise. Burns relied on the reminisces of E.B. Sledge whose WITH THE OLD BREED AT PELELIU AND OKINAWA is largely considered one of the finest memoirs to come out of the Pacific war, if not the entire war itself. The segment shows horrific footage of the savage fighting on the island and is anything but "girly", an extremely immature and poorly chosen term, especially for college student. In my estimation THE WAR is the most unique documentary yet on the conflict. Many have indicated a preferece for WORLD AT WAR, which was excellent in its own right, but Burns has given us a different perspective of l941-l945--a perspective that humanizes perhaps the most inhumane period in history.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Burns does it again.
We all know about Mr. Burn's series. In depth and accurate about historical data.
Published 23 hours ago by Atrueamerican
4.0 out of 5 stars Another fine Ken Burns production
A very well done documentary, personalized by stories of individuals, in the finest Ken Burns tradition. Read more
Published 3 days ago by tim
2.0 out of 5 stars Should be titled, "The LAND war: racial unrest in post-depression...
This doc did a few things right and many things wrong.

What it did right: It was presented in a unique way, was engaging, and used mostly completely original footage (a... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Aleksandre L. Canner
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent thus far
Finished 3 episodes. Excellent thus far.
Published 11 days ago by Mel Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Always great things from Ken Burns. Just finished the Roosevelt's and wanted to see more from him.
Published 15 days ago by Bruce D. Bessette
5.0 out of 5 stars Ken Burns has done it again.
Ken Burns has done it again. He is a master when it comes to the impossible task of presenting a long and horrific war in an educational and interesting manner. Read more
Published 16 days ago by sherry
4.0 out of 5 stars Done well
I was pleased with the production. I learned aspects of WWII that I was unfamiliar with. Some of the scenes shown are brutally frank but that is I suppose how war is, not pretty. Read more
Published 17 days ago by clarinet-man
5.0 out of 5 stars superb
An excellent and unique presentation of a critically importent time in America's history.
Published 17 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars like the port cities that exploded with workers as the ...
As always, Ken Burns does a magnificent job of presenting his subject matter in a way that both captivates and informs the viewer. Read more
Published 18 days ago by James W
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent photographs and videoclips
As usual another masterpiece by Ken Burns. Well worth watching. Excellent photographs and videoclips.
Published 18 days ago by Alexander K. Girevendulis
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Topic From this Discussion
Is The War DVD set in HD?
The set that is coming out next week is the first version of this series to hit DVD, it does not appear to be in HD. FYI, PBS sets by default are "pricey", you should have did what I did, preordered and applied 2 gift certificates to it ;-)
Sep 25, 2007 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 23 posts
VHS availability
DVD players are inexpensive, I have two small units that cost under $40 and they perform admirably. My suggestion is to buy your parents a DVD player and hook it up for them, then give them a few lessons on how to use it. Even if they only use it to view The War, I bet they'll thank you for it.
Oct 2, 2007 by Max W. |  See all 5 posts
Companion Book
I am on the review page for the discs as we speak. I see nothing about getting the book for free. All I see is that customers who bought the discs also bought the book but as a separate item. On occasion Amazon will offer a discount off their already low price if you buy 2 items together.... Read More
Oct 10, 2007 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 5 posts
Has this DVD any closed caption?
Yes and it also has English subtitles, you have your choice :-)
Oct 24, 2007 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 7 posts
English only and is also cc'd in English
Jun 13, 2008 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 2 posts
Amazed by generational "loss" of connection Be the first to reply
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