Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Cold Mountain (2003)
Not A Love Story
(Minor spoilers in this post)
Cold Mountain's greatest flaw may have been its wrong-headed promotion as a great one-on-one love story. It is more a revelation of people, place and time.
We avoided the theatrical release, because of the Law-Kidman romance that was promised (just another date movie...), then I read the Charles Frazier book. Oh. Think again.
The film is nearly true to the novel. If anything, Minghella felt compelled to make more of Ada and Inman's budding romance before the war. "I-I don't know you" is spoken several times in voiced letters and at the end in the film. In the novel, they didn't know each other at all: three awkward meetings and one fumbled kiss.
But, as happens in real life, Inman and Ada felt something was possible ... then their worlds were overturned. Minghella is true to Frazier in the bulk of the story.
Ada is a photo that Inman carries, but she really represents HOME: Cold Mountain, his real love. A return to sanity from the insanity of mass murder.
Inman is a photo that Ada keeps. He is a glimpse into the rural life she began to appreciate after her unhappy girlhood in the crinolines and parasols of Charleston. Her scholarly father was her one true friend. His early death left her completely alone, neither fish nor fowl.
Until kindly Sally Swanger (Kathy Baker) sends Ruby Thewes (Renée Z) over to kill that floggin' rooster, and shows her how to survive.
Maybe that's what disappoints many formula love-story critics. Law and Kidman are apart for nearly the entire film. Ruby and Ada get that place a-workin' -- just enough to last the winters at first, but functioning. Ada doesn't pine for Inman; in her letters she is caring, then as times get worse, she is very strong: "If you are fighting, stop fighting. If you are marching, stop marching. Come home. Come home to Cold Mountain. That is my request."
Another frequent complaint is that Cold Mountain is "episodic". Yeah, it is. That's the structure of the novel. Inman's desperate journey is another retelling of Homer's Odyssey - and that was THE love story of the ages, more than Romeo and Juliet.
This is a story of the War Between The States, but one that looks beyond the the glory and horror of Gettysburg, Antietam and Manassas. This ain't "Gods and Generals" ... this is about a few ordinary people in an obscure corner of America. Inman's journey is a way of revealing how that war's evil claws reached the most innocent folks. And turned a few of them unspeakably cruel.
Perhaps Frazier and Minghella did not intend to remind us, but their story was echoed in 1990's Bosnia; and too many other places today.
Cold Mountain: the Frazier novel curled all my toes with its poetry, suspense and aching love of the mountains. Minghella earns two of my thumbs and a few toes for getting it on film.
10/10 for the book; 8.5/10 for the movie.