When I was studying theatre at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, I had a professor by the name of Lanford J. Potts. More than any other teacher in my life, this man had a profound effect on me in terms of understanding what theatre and theatrical art could bring to the public.
His most basic premise, in terms of understanding how to do it, was to understand what he called the symbiotic and synergistic nature of theatre. In laymens terms, this basically meant that through a group of people, you could find one common strain in a piece of work and build upon one another to create a whole that expressed something very special. Hopefully it would either entertain or educate an audience.
As I sat watching the film Cold Mountain, I began to think more and more of that theory. This movie is a precise blend of all it's parts. A wonderful story, acted by a group of truly talented actors, surrounded by incredible story, scenery, costumes, music and cinematography and brought together under one heading by Anthony Minghella. It would be too simple to say that this film means more as a sum total rather than looking at each part that inhabits it. For each section that builds upon the whole is just as amazing as the finished product. This film is a brilliant example of what can be created by putting together an immensly talented group of people.
To begin with the director, Minghella has created a record that speaks for itself. The English Patient (though not one of my favorites) was widely praised, Iris is a brilliant film, and I enjoyed both The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Quiet American quite a bit. He has proven that he knows how to do his job, and in this film, he creates his most perfect example of that ability. A director's main purpose is to ensure that all parts live up to the whole. In this movie, they do and in spades.
The acting is incredible. Jude Law plays the main role and impressed the hell out of me. I saw range in his performance that I did not recognize that he possessed. Nicole Kidman takes the part of his love interest and certainly does not disappoint. I have been impressed with her work since To Die For, and this may very well be her best role to date. The fact that both are foreigners makes it all the more impressive.
To add to that cast, we have outstanding acting work done by Renee Zellweger, Ray Winstone, Eileen Atkins, Brenden Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Kathy Baker, James Gammon, Jena Malone (in a small but great part), Donald Sutherland and even Jack White of the White Stripes. I am not sure when I last saw a film that sported a better cast (Gosford Park comes to mind, but that was the cream of the crop of British acting and this is a worldly cast.)
They come together to tell this fairly simple story of a man trying to find his way home to Cold Mountain, North Carolina in order to be with the woman he has fallen in love with. The fact that they have never consumated their affair makes it even that much more touching.
Their accents are as perfect as they could possibly be, their costumes absolutely correct for the time period, the one battle sequence is shot as accurately as any one of us might care to expect and the music surrounding it lends itself perfectly to the feeling and tone of the entire film.
And this brings me to the music more specifically. The number of brilliant people involved with the music of this film is incredible. Sting, Elvis Costello, Alison Krauss, and even Jack White on a number of the songs is truly impressive. Damn, even Gleeson and Winstone are credited with performing their own songs. The sound of Appalachia is precisely perfect and makes the entire piece of work that much more beautiful and time specific.
The camera work is beautiful, even if much of it was shot in Romania (home to a good friend of mine). I might have preferred them to shoot it in North Carolina, as you cannot beat the picture perfect aspects of that state for this film, but they pull it off brilliantly. Money is always a consideration, and looking at the movie, you cannot tell that it is not where it claims to take place.
Even the book that the film is based on is considered by many of my own friends a classic piece of work. In total, this director has gathered an immensly talented group of people together and created one of the finest films I have seen in quite a while. I certainly still feel that Monster was an incredible film of 2003, but so too is this. In fact, I have to say that it should have won Best Picture at the Oscars of last year. I love me some LOTR, but Return of the King cannot match this film when considering every single aspect.
There has not been a better film in years to express what can be created when you bring talented people together. Minghella focuses them all on the main point of this story and then ensures that each piece fits precisely. The sum total equals a truly awe inspiring work that should be a template for filmakers for years to come. I doubt they will recognize it, and I am sure it is not easy to bring so many talented people together as they have here, but it should be watched by students to understand how it should be done.
I am blown away by this film. This one of those movies that makes me want to turn of all other stimuli and contemplate what I have just witnessed. I cannot praise this film enough. If you have not yet seen it, go out and rent it today - right now in fact! It recieves my highest recommendation! That is all.