One of the main reasons to watch Cold Mountain (Fri 7 830P) is the cinematography of Aussie John Seale who has teamed up with writer/director Anthony Minghella before on The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley. Set during the Civil War in south east America, Cold Mountain has some confronting battle scenes that are populated by rural men and boys who weren’t professional fighters but ordinary farmers, husbands and sons. Both Seale and Minghella wanted to portray the men of the period as being of the earth and a number of scenes show an almost seamless blending of bodies to ground. Take for example an early scene where men lie dying and the blood seeps from their bodies, turning slowly from red to brown as it mixes in the mud. And later, a pile of corpses, apparently heaped at random, but if you take a second look, actually stacked in a complex criss-cross pattern.
Filmed in Romania, as a proxy for the wilds of Virginia or North Carolina, the scenery in and of itself is quite beautiful and then we have the film’s centre piece, Nicole Kidman, who, if truth be told, looks out of place. Set in the middle of the war, without the men to run the farms let alone produce sufficient food, there is our Nic., all rosy cheeks and glorious radiance, wearing the latest in Country Road fashion. About two-thirds of the way through, Nicole, flanked by the girls, walks up a hill like a Vision Splendid with light snow falling like tiny angels. She looks too good is the problem.
The story is a fairly straightforward one. Inman, played by Jude Law, goes off to war, is injured and then flees on foot, back to Cold Mountain and Ada, played by Nicole.
What motivates a man to cross the Appalachians on foot during winter, desert the army, be tracked by bounty hunters, face indignities, all the while nearly starving to death, to find one woman, whom he only spoke to once, over three years before ? I read one review that suggested that Ada must have been this ethereal figure, this Vision Splendid, in Inman’s imagination for him to do the things that he did.
Its unlikely. But that’s the set-up of the story. Things become so dour and depressive during the first hour (too many blues and greys) as both Inman and Ada mope around missing the other desperately, that it is a welcome breath of fresh air when Renee Zellweger steps onto the stage and dominates every scene she is in. She injects the story with energy and warmth and was no surprise to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Throw in a local baddie played by Ray Winstone who does ‘evil’ as well as anyone, a girls own brigade at home led by Renee and Kathy Baker, and a superb supporting cast, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Aileen Atkins, and you have enough to enjoy in this two and a half hour epic.