Friday, January 02, 2004

cold mountain

We saw the movie today, perfect for a wet gray day.

Anthony Minghella, who brought us The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed this adaptation of Charles Frazier's book. It's the story of a Southern soldier (Jude Law) in the closing days of the Civil War, and his decision to leave the army and return back to his hollow in the North Carolina Blue Mountains to see the unrequited love of his life (Nicole Kidman), a preacher's daughter who had arrived there shortly before the war started.

Much like The English Patient, Minghella takes a painterly approach to his story telling, where the play of light and mood is as important as the actors. He must be drawn to the broken edges of society in war, and the pains of memory, love and obstacles during war. Unlike TEP, this story appears to dovetail toward its ending, although Law and Kidman are in separate places during most of the movie. (I must admit that I agree with Elaine in Seinfeld when she yelled at the screen during TEP, "just die.") In between these two's story lines of Law traveling back, and Kidman waiting for him, we go through memories of their past.

Renee Zellweger portrays a tough as nails country girl who helps Kidman survive after the death of her father (Donald Sutherland). Great chemistry between her and Kidman. Great supporting cast: Kathy Baker as the kind neighbor lady, Eileen Atkins as an eccentric goat lady, Natalie Portman as a lonely widow and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a sleazy preacher. Irish actor Brendan Gleeson is especially good as Zellweger's father, and English actor Charlie Hunnam (Nicholas Nickleby and the British Queer as Folk) plays a wicked and brooding young man who assists other bullies in harrassing the home folk during the war, as well as trying to kill deserting soldiers.

Law and Kidman were made for the movies, and in this movie, the glow of candle light and yellow hues, or the bracing whiteness of a cold winter day. Their faces reflect the pain, desire, fear, and strong motivation of a love that neither understands very well. War in addition to being hell, changes the order of lives in powerful ways, and this movie pounds that theme repeatedly.

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