starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Eileen Atkins, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi and Donad Sutherland
written by Anthony Minghella
directed by Anthony Minghella
Based on the book by Charles Frazer, Cold Mountain benefited from a lot of hype and publicity at the last Academy Awards. Now that I have seen the film, I think the hype was less than justified. There are some strong actors here putting in some strong performances. But I wasn’t fired up by it.
It is a love story set in the Civil War American south. Aida Monroe (Nicole Kidman), a preacher’s daughter transplanted from the city to the countryside waits at home while her love, W.P Inman (Jude Law), is off fighting the war. As the South begins to lose, life becomes more difficult. Her protective father (Donald Sutherland) dies and she is left on her own until a country woman, Renee Zellweger, comes to live with her and teaches her how to be tough and survive.
For me, the most interesting story is its portrayal of the “home guard” that tries to hold Confederate society together as the South begins to lose the war and slips - later falls - further and faster into defeat and chaos. I don’t now how historically accurate the existence of a Confederate Home Guard is, but it certainly feels credible. At first, select men who did not go to war (for whatever reason) were granted positions of armed authority by the Confederate government to replace other (younger, less influential) men who had gone to war. It’s an old story: the home vacated by the able-bodied young men, with unguarded property (including men) vulnerable to scavenging lone, outcast, or marginalized males. Later, they claim authority for themselves and sanctify their self-appointment. They are outside the rule of law as the Confederate government collapsed. As the hardships of war and the reality of impending defeat grew they indulged the freedom from the social restrictions that contain our more natural, depraved motives and behaviors. The home guard turns to murder and substitutes the rule of greed and whim for the rule of law. Of course, it is a predictable state of affairs, and an entirely natural, although nasty, condition. As soon as I recognized what was happening I anticipated vigilante justice against these characters in the story, and I got it. But I persevered in watching the film more for the satisfaction of that desire than for the resolution of the love story. The ending is sweet, but I wasn’t expecting a sweet movie and I did not rent it for that purpose.