Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Anthony Minghella|
|Screenplay by||Anthony Minghella|
|Based on||Cold Mountain|
by Charles Frazier
|Music by||Gabriel Yared|
|Edited by||Walter Murch|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$173 million|
Cold Mountain is a 2003 epic war film written and directed by Anthony Minghella. The film is based on the bestselling 1997 novel of the same name by Charles Frazier. It stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger with Eileen Atkins, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jack White, Giovanni Ribisi, Donald Sutherland, and Ray Winstone in supporting roles. The film tells the story of a wounded deserter from the Confederate army close to the end of the American Civil War, who journeys home to reunite with the woman he loves. The film was a co-production of companies in Italy, Romania, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Cold Mountain opened to positive reviews from critics and won several major awards. For her performance, Renée Zellweger won the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA Award, all in the Best Supporting Actress category. It was also a success at the box office and became a sleeper hit, grossing more than double its budget worldwide.
When North Carolina secedes from the Union on May 20, 1861, the young men of Cold Mountain hurry to enlist in the Confederate States Army. Among them is W.P. Inman, a carpenter who has fallen in love with Ada Monroe, a preacher's daughter who had come from Charleston, South Carolina to care for her ailing father. Their whirlwind courtship is interrupted by the war, but they share their first kiss the day Inman leaves for the army. Before parting ways, Ada promises Inman that she will wait for him.
Three years later, Inman fights in the Battle of the Crater and survives; he then comforts a dying acquaintance from Cold Mountain, while fellow soldier Stobrod Thewes plays a tune on his fiddle. Inman is later wounded in a skirmish; as he lies in a hospital near death, a nurse reads him a letter from Ada, who pleads for Inman to come home to her. Inman recovers and deserts, embarking on a long trek back to Cold Mountain.
Inman encounters a corrupt preacher named Veasey, who is about to drown his pregnant slave lover. Inman stops Veasey, and leaves him tied up to face the town's justice. Exiled from his parish, Veasey later joins Inman on his journey. They help a young man named Junior dispose of a bull cadaver, and then join him and his sordid family for dinner. Junior leaves and returns with the Confederate Home Guard, who take Inman and Veasey away along with other deserters. During a skirmish with Union cavalry, Veasey and the group are killed while Inman is left for dead; an elderly hermit living in the woods finds Inman and nurses him back to health. Inman eventually meets a grieving young widow named Sara and her infant child Ethan, and stays the night at her cabin. The next morning, three Union soldiers arrive demanding food; they take Sara and Ethan hostage, forcing Inman to kill two of them, while an enraged Sara fatally shoots the last one trying to flee.
Back in Cold Mountain, Ada's father has died, leaving her with no money and few means to run their property's farm in Black Cove. She survives on the kindness of her neighbors, particularly Esco and Sally Swanger, who eventually send for Ruby Thewes--Stobrod's daughter--to help. Ruby moves in and together they bring the farm to working order, becoming close friends. Meanwhile, Ada writes constant letters to Inman in hopes of meeting him again and renewing their romance.
Ada has several tense encounters with Captain Teague, the leader of the local Home Guard who covets Ada and her property, and whose grandfather had once owned much of Cold Mountain. One day, Teague and his men kill Esco, and then torture Sally to coax her deserter sons out of hiding and kill them as well. Ada and Ruby rescue Sally, who is traumatized and rendered mute. The women celebrate Christmas with Stobrod, who has deserted and arrived to Cold Mountain with traveling companions Pangle, a simple-minded banjo player, and Georgia, a mandolin player to whom Ruby is attracted.
While camping in the woods one night, Stobrod and Pangle are cornered by Teague and the Guard while Georgia watches from hiding; Pangle unintentionally reveals the musicians are deserters, and the Guard shoot Pangle and Stobrod. Georgia escapes and informs Ruby and Ada, who return to the scene to find Pangle dead and Stobrod badly wounded. The women remove a bullet from Stobrod's back, and they take shelter in an abandoned Cherokee camp. Ada goes hunting for food and is reunited with Inman, who has finally returned to Cold Mountain. They return to the camp, and spend the night consummating their love for one another.
Leaving Inman and Stobrod to hide at the camp, Ada and Ruby are surrounded by Teague and his men, having captured and tortured Georgia for their whereabouts. Inman arrives and kills Teague and most of his band in a gunfight. He then chases Teague's lieutenant, Bosie, and exchanges fast draws; Bosie is killed, but Inman is mortally wounded. Ada finds and comforts Inman, who dies in her arms.
Years later, it is revealed that Ada's night with Inman had produced a daughter, Grace Inman, and that Ruby has married Georgia bearing two children. With Stobrod and Sally, the family celebrates Easter together at Black Cove.
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The most obvious historical inaccuracy occurs early in the film with the giant explosion that kicked off the Battle of the Crater, during the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia. The scene was filmed in broad daylight, although the actual explosion occurred in pre-dawn darkness at 4:44 a.m.
Several scholars of historical studies reviewed the movie for its representation of North Carolina during the Civil War, especially the state's mountainous western region. Their justification is the effect popular media have on national and worldwide perceptions of Appalachian people, particularly southern Appalachians in this case. The opinions vary, but the consensus among them is the historical context of the movie is close to the scholarship. Although these scholars disagree about the accuracy of particular elements of the movie, they agree that the story gets at least some things right.
These scholars admit that the film misrepresents some aspects of the region during the time. "Neither slavery nor slaves play much part in the film, with only fleeting references to both," says John Inscoe. However, Margaret Redwood pointed out that the film takes place in a mountain region, not suitable for plantations, and therefore inhabited mainly by white farmers, and that "Though the issue of slavery loomed large in the war as a whole, it was not necessarily crucial for these specific people". John Crutchfield notes that "we see a thoroughly contemporary understanding at work ... that views slavery in decidedly moral terms." Another negative criticism is that it is nowhere close to a faithful representation of the geography of North Carolina, especially the town in Cold Mountain, which plays a major role in the story. Silas House claims that, "For a story that relies so much on sense of place, it was obvious throughout that the majority of the film had been shot in Europe." A native of the area, Anna Creadick, says, "... the film's geography was annoyingly off-kilter. True, the Carpathians are somebody's mountains, but they're not mine." Lastly, Martin Crawford claims, "the novel's underlying sentimentality limits its value as historical fiction and thereby undercuts its representational authority." For Crawford, the story is far too romantic and emotional for the historical context.
On the other hand, they praise the film for its conformity to the historical scholarship in other subjects. Inscoe asserts his astonishment that "the final product should ... provide so unflinching a portrayal of the bleak and unsettling realities of a far less familiar version of the Civil War, but one that would be all too recognizable to thousands of hardscrabble southern men and women who lived through it." Focusing on the impact of the war on women, he adds, "Even more powerful - and more historically based - are other incidents that convey the brutal toll taken on mountain women, who as mothers, wives, and widows are forced to protect their families, sometimes by violently retaliating against their tormentors." Silas House says, "for the most part I thought director Anthony Minghella did an honorable job of portraying our region." He agrees with Inscoe on the subject of the area's population, stating, "most of all the characters are dignified, determined, and intelligent human beings, like the vast majority of Appalachians, and I am glad that this movie exists." For House, the film goes beyond the people of western North Carolina to include all Appalachian communities.
As for the music, House states that "most of the songs in the film were written specifically for the movie," but traditional forms of singing in the region make up for it. Jack Wright (not to be confused with Jack White, who plays a musician in the film), expresses that the film honestly represents the music of the region, even with a couple of non-regional additions, like "Sitting on Top of the World" and "Great High Mountain." In contrast to House's remark, Wright says, "some of the best of the soundtrack was not composed for the movie but garnered from the body of time-tested and proven masterpieces of an earlier rural American culture." Such selections were not necessarily performed authentically in the film: the two Sacred Harp songs, although generally authentic to the period and region, contained vocal parts not yet written at that time.
Cold Mountain, where the film is set, is a real mountain located within the Pisgah National Forest, Haywood County, North Carolina. However, it was filmed mostly in Romania, with numerous scenes filmed in Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The film was one of an increasing number of Hollywood productions made in eastern Europe. This is occurring as a result of much lower costs in the region; and in this specific instance, Transylvania was less marked by modern life than the Appalachians (fewer power lines, electric poles, paved roads and so on).
The film also marked a technological and industry turnaround in editing. Walter Murch edited Cold Mountain on Apple's sub-$1000 Final Cut Pro software using off-the-shelf G4s. This was a leap for such a big budgeted film, where expensive Avid systems are usually the standard editing system. His efforts on the film were documented in the 2005 book Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple's Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema.
Cold Mountain was met with overall positive reviews from critics, with Zellweger's performance receiving wide acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 71% based on reviews from 228 critics. The site's consensus states: "The well-crafted Cold Mountain has an epic sweep and captures the horror and brutal hardship of war". On Metacritic, the film received a grade of 73 out of 100 based on 41 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on scale of A to F.
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, noting that "It evokes a backwater of the Civil War with rare beauty, and lights up with an assortment of colorful supporting characters."Richard Corliss, film critic for Time, gave the film a positive review. He called it "A grand and poignant movie epic about what is lost in war and what's worth saving in life. It is also a rare blend of purity and maturity--the year's most rapturous love story." In his movie guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 1/2 stars out of 4, writing "Minghella's adaptation of the Charles Frazier best-seller captures both the grimness of battle and the starkness of life on the home front in the South," and concluded the film was "Meticulously crafted" with "First-rate performances all around."
Cold Mountain: Music from the Motion Picture shares producer T Bone Burnett with the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a largely old-time and folk album with limited radio play that still enjoyed commercial success, and garnered a Grammy. As a result, comparisons were drawn between the two albums. The soundtrack, however, also employs many folk and blues elements.
It features songs written by Jack White of The White Stripes (who also appeared in the film in the role of Georgia), Elvis Costello and Sting. Costello and Sting's contributions, "The Scarlet Tide" and "You Will Be My Ain True Love", were both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and featured vocals by bluegrass singer Alison Krauss. Gabriel Yared's Oscar-nominated score is represented by four tracks amounting to approximately fifteen minutes of music.
The film was nominated for more than seventy awards, including seven Academy Award nominations. Renée Zellweger won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in the film.
In addition, the film was nominated for the following Academy Awards:
At the time of the Civil War these songs, in the only available edition of the Sacred Harp, had only one verse apiece, and neither contained an alto part.