I haven’t seen Cold Mountain, a revisionist (to say the least) Civil War film, but Blixa’s detailed review of the film (scroll down to bottom of the page), and its themes, speaks volumes about how out of touch Hollywood is with big chunks of its audience:
There is some lip service paid, in some of the dialogue, to some bizarre notion that Inman, seemingly for the sole reason that because he has fought in a (gasp) war, is now “not good enough” for Nicole Kidman’s angelically beautiful and newly-independent Ada, apparently unlike before, when he mostly “worked wood”. (A preacher’s daughter, she now co-runs the farm, having been quickly taught farming by Bridget Jones – or something.) He’s gone off and killed people and fired guns doin’ it. He’s tainted, you see. Why, the things he has done! It’s almost like he’s a man or something.
This should be a tipoff. It jarred me out of the film entirely. Because in context that makes no sense whatsoever. This is a thought which, historically, would not have even come to the mind of an Ada, let alone an Inman. If anything, a real historical Ada may have rejected an Inman – or, rather, an Inman would have been ashamed to call upon her in the first place – because he was a deserter – but not “because he killed”. Please! He was a soldier, and in joining the war, he did no more and no less what any other able-bodied man of his time and station would have felt honor-bound to do.
I think lots of modern writers simply don’t know how to construct a story in which the female hero ends up with a man who has done some, shall we say, historically-“manly” things. Such as killing in a war, for example. We can’t quite wrap our minds around the idea that anything so base as fighting in a war could once have been considered honorable. What is “honor” anyway?
And it’s true, the prospect of a movie ending with Nicole Kidman settling down and nesting with a man who has (gasp) killed other men – a man with blood on his hands, on the wrong side of the Civil War to boot – might well be too confusing to modern audiences. Shocking, even. Jude Law was “tainted” – not necessarily by historical standards, but in the eyes of the likely audience for both the book and the film. Better to just get rid of him. His continued presence in the story would be inconvenient, out of place, causing us discomfort.
What’s curious is that Hollywood films that don’t completely PC-ify war and honor often do extremely well at the box office, such as Mel Gibson’s The Patriot, and We Were Soldiers, Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, and recent hits The Two Towers and Master and Commander.
Cold Mountain was directed by Anthony Minghella, whose biography page on the Internet Movie Database quotes as saying, “The only lesson to extract from any civil war is that it’s pointless and futile and ugly, and that there is nothing glamorous or heroic about it. There are heroes, but the causes are never heroic.”
Gee, I guess freeing the slaves doesn’t count as heroic in Mr. Minghella’s eyes.
(Via Stephen Green.)
UPDATE: For a more favorable review of Cold Mountain, check out Mackubin Thomas Owens in National Review Online.