Political Film Society - Cold Mountain

PFS Film Review
Cold Mountain


Cold MountainAt the center of Cold Mountain, directed by Anthony Minghella, is a love story that spans the years from 1861 to 1864, largely taking place in Cold Mountain, North Carolina, a community in the Appalachians (though none of the filming is actually in that state). The film has several flashbacks and flashforwards to lay the premise for a romance which, due to the Civil War, is never quite consummated. Chronologically, the story begins when Ada Monroe (played by Nicole Kidman) rides into the community with her father, the Reverend Monroe (played by Donald Sutherland), who has left Charleston for the fresher air of the mountains. His church is being constructed when they arrive. Inman (played by Jude Law), one of the construction workers, is immediately attracted to the glamorously dressed Ada, who returns the compliment by offering him a glass of cider. An improbable love affair then blooms. However, one Sunday word reaches the community that North Carolina has seceded, and the Civil War has begun. Inman goes off to war after a single passionate kiss with Ada, while she remains with her father. Reverend Monroe, however, dies soon thereafter, leaving her alone until Ruby (played by Renee Zellweger) comes along, having run out on her abusive husband, to help out with the livestock and vegetables while Ada awaits Inman's return from the war. Several anti-war themes pervade Cold Mountain, albeit very subtly, and the film glosses over the racism that the South was so impetuously trying to defend. The first exposé comes early, during the 1864 siege of Petersburg, when many soldiers on both sides perish in an ill-planned assault on a trench built by the Southern army. In a subsequent battle, Inman is wounded, again underscoring the brutality of war. Sentimentally, Inman holds dear a book that was Ada's going-away present into which he presses her photograph and three letters that she sent, promising to await his return. Ada, in turn, treasures a photo of Inman as well as a few letters, which ominously stop coming after autumn 1863. While wounded, a hospital volunteer reads her latest letter to him one day, and he soon decides to join the ranks of the deserters. Much of the remaining story is about his Homeric trek from the battlefield through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Cold Mountain, where conditions become nasty while he is on his way. A renegade band of Southerners hunts deserters, enjoying the opportunity to shoot them in cold blood as well as those who harbor them. A detachment of Northerners is out to seize livestock and, if possible, the opportunity to rape a Southern woman. While men die in combat, women suffer at home. After the war, according to Ada's voiceover, all seek to return to normalcy. However, normal times do not come back to the South after the Civil War, a story told eloquently in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941). Based on the novel by Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain may not measure up to the drama of Gone with the Wind (1939), which recounts a somewhat similar tragedy in a different part of the South, but the composed focus on the indignity of war places Cold Mountain on a higher plane. Accordingly, the Political Film Society has nominated Cold Mountain as best film of 2003 in raising consciousness about the foolishness of violent methods and superiority of peaceful methods for resolving conflicts. MH

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Cold Mountain
by Charles Frazier

Cold Mountain is an extraordinary novel about a soldier's perilous journey back to his beloved at the end of the Civil War.