January 6, 2004 > Cold Mountain
Directed by: Anthony Minghella
by Jeremy Inman
Imagine "Homer's Odyssey" in the context of the American Civil War and you'll have just about summed up Cold Mountain. Anthony Minghella adapted the screenplay from Charles Frazier's novel about one man's epic journey home from the battlefields of the Civil War and the perils he meets along the way. Unlike the usual Hollywood book -to-film transfer, Cold Mountain remains loyal to the novel. The stunning and horrific opening battle sequence, which occupies almost a third of the film, was added on to the beginning of the novel. However, the battle served as an illustration of the barbaric nature of Civil War era combat and as a prologue to the main character's epic journey.
The novel begins with Confederate soldier Inman lying wounded in bed, where he is read a letter from his sweetheart Ada from back home in Cold Mountain. After this point in the film, the movie progresses almost exactly like the book, and details regarding the past are delivered through flashback, much like in the novel.
Cold Mountain, the tale of a wounded soldier's journey home to the woman he loves is really two separate stories, and how they weave in and out of one another. The first story is the plight of Inman, played by Jude Law. Inman is a man of quiet resolve who is swept into the civil war to fight for the honor of the South. After witnessing the brutality of war, he quickly becomes disillusioned with the realization that he is fighting for a cause that he does not believe in. Wounded and placed in an infirmary, Inman decides to desert the army and begin a perilous journey home. Along the way, he encounters many dangers and trials in order to return to the woman he loves.
The second story is about Ada Monroe, played by Nicole Kidman, and the changing face of Cold Mountain during the war. When Ada's father dies, she is left alone on a farm that she does not know how to tend and in a town where help is no longer easy to find. To make matters worse, some of the men in town who didn't go to war took the opportunity to seize control of Cold Mountain. Their leader is a ruthless man who seeks to intimidate the people of Cold Mountain into relinquishing their land and insure the immediate execution of any man found to have deserted the Confederate army.
Cold Mountain masterfully illustrates the state of a country that is at war with itself. Viewers are shown the haphazard and ill-planned nature of the war through striking battlefront sequences, and bear witness to the powerful and conflicting emotions of that time period through outstanding performances from every member of the cast. Perhaps the most impressive performance was RenŽe Zellweger's portrayal of Ruby Thewes, a young girl sent to Ada in order to help her rebuild her farm.
Zellweger's performance of the simple but insightful Ruby won her a Golden Globe Nomination, and she, like much of the film, serves as the mouthpiece for the author's criticism of the tendencies for that particular piece of American history. Cold Mountain is a compelling love story and an incredible adventure, but most importantly it is a fascinating chronicle of various facets of American life during the Civil War.