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Cold mountain of emotions

Michael P. Barrett | Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Too frequently, a great novel is contorted on the silver screen to fit the desires of the Hollywood business. But that is not the case with Cold Mountain, a modern classic based on the 1997 bestselling novel by Charles Frazier (his first). Directed by Academy-Award winner Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley), the film has already garnered seven Academy Award nominations, including best actor and best actress. Although there are a couple minor characters and scenes left out in order to further develop the story, the movie stays true to the book’s original intertwining and heart-wrenching plot. Several actors with many awards to their credit portray characters with stunning feeling, adding to the film’s credibility: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Donald Sutherland, and Natalie Portman top the impressive list. Set in the latter days of the Civil War, the story tells of a wounded Confederate soldier, Inman (Jude Law), who seeks to return to Cold Mountain, North Carolina to his love, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), a young educated woman who is struggling to adjust to farm life after growing up in the city of Charleston. Although somewhat drawn out, the movie has flashbacks and parallels their lives as they both struggle with their personal journeys. Wounded and realizing that he would soon go back to the front lines, Inman decides to desert and to make the long return to Cold Mountain, the place he sees as a paradise after witnessing the horrors of war. During this time, Ada is taking care of her father, Reverend Monroe (Donald Sutherland), who had moved with her to Cold Mountain in hopes that the fresh air would help his tuberculosis. After his death, she is left on her own and begins her own adventure of sorts in trying to survive. It is at this time that a mountain girl named Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger) arrives at the Monroe farm to help Ada. While on his journey back, Inman meets several interesting characters, ranging from the dangerous and deserter-hunting Home Guard to friendly strangers who help him along the way. This calls to mind “The Odyssey,” and indeed there are striking similarities. One of the first persons he meets is Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a former town official who travels with Inman for a time. Later on, Inman meets Sara (Natalie Portman), a young widower and mother who longs for a man. Back in Cold Mountain, Ruby and Ada work together on the farm and are aided by Sally Swanger (Kathy Baker), but they encounter several hardships mostly caused by Teague (Ray Winstone), a bitter bounty hunter. Later they are joined by Ruby’s father, Stobrod (Brendon Gleeson), with his band that features Georgia (Jack White of the White Stripes in his acting debut). The movie continues in this alternating sequence, which adds to the uniqueness of the war and romance tale. As Inman nears Cold Mountain, he and Ada grow spiritually together in their hopes of the war’s end and their being together. This all leads to an awakening conclusion that brings forth both tears and smiles. Cold Mountain is one of the best works of cinematography in recent memory and it is fitting that it is based on one of the most acclaimed modern novels. One may think of the story as a hybrid of Saving Private Ryan and Gone With The Wind because it exposes the bloody anguish and suffering of the Civil War while it discloses the longing for love and peace between individuals. It is a testament to the power of the human soul in the midst of hardship.