Frigid Mountain

Well, as I promised recently, I finished watching the DVD of Cold Mountain, a film based on one of my favorite books in the world.

This is not one of my favorite movies in the world.

I know I’m about two years late to the trashing party for this movie, so I don’t think I should bother going into much detail. The fact that this film is a disappointment is not news. I’m not sure if I have any original complaints to add, but maybe I can at least vent a little of my personal fury by making a couple of points about this film:

First, the performances were as bad as everybody told me they would be. Nicole Kidman and Jude Law didn’t come across as actors so much as dress-up dolls reading lines from a script. Renee Zellweiger managed to have some fun with the role of Ruby, but beyond that every performer was stiff and artificial. I was particularly disappointed in Donald Sutherland, who was supposed to be playing Ada’s father, Monroe, but was instead apparently playing Martin Sheen playing Robert E. Lee playing Monroe. Ever hear of method acting, Sutherland? What the hell is your motivation?

Secondly, the script left out most of the great moments in the book, and when they left one in they usually screwed it up. For instance, there’s the sad moment at the end of the book when the old drunk fiddler and his mentally challenged banjo-playing friend face a firing squad. In the book, the banjo-playing kid compulsively grins as he faces the firing squad, which unnerves them so much they make him put his hat over his face. The author does not explain this, but it seems as if the kid is smiling because he’s not used to getting so much attention, and is maybe even impressed to find himself facing something as “serious” as a firing squad. It’s a tremendously human moment, an example of the kind of compelling and original psychology that permeates this book. In the movie, they act out this entire scene, smile and all … except here the kid is smiling because he thinks they’re going to take his picture. So much for poignancy.

Finally — after sitting through the film, I tortured myself further by watching the special features in the two-disk DVD set. There is a film of a live concert featuring “The Music of Cold Mountain”, made even worse by a number of phony-humble between-song speeches by several of the filmmakers. You should not attempt to watch this special feature under any circumstances, at the risk of great boredom and pain.

Want to know what’s coming up next in the bad-literary-films category? Well, nobody’s seen this one yet, but it just doesn’t look promising.

6 Responses

  1. eastern european moviesI must
    eastern european movies

    I must admit that I have not read nor seen Cold Mountain, but as I was hitchhiking through Northern Romania, one driver mustered up enough English to tell me that the forest we were passing was “where they filmed Cold Mountain.” And I was living in Prague when they were filming Everything is Illuminated (on location). The Czech girls really got a kick out of Elijah Wood, who went everywhere with his girlfriend. It was especially funny because all of the Czech girls were way taller than him, and would occasionally run up to him screaming, “Frodo Frodo!” with an adoring stare. But thats what he gets for filming all of those poignant teary-eyed scenes with Rudy.

    Those are my only two movie stories ever, and as you mentioned both in the same post, I had to share.

  2. Well, that is a pretty funny
    Well, that is a pretty funny coincidence. Yeah, I heard they filmed Cold Mountain in Romania, so your story checks out.

  3. Frodo!Oh my God! I can’t

    Oh my God! I can’t believe they put Frodo in that movie! The web page looks silly and bombastic, so I guess I should assume the movie won’t have those qualities.

    Where have all the great filmmakers gone?

  4. There are so manyThere are so
    There are so many

    There are so many poor adaptations of books into films, this is no exception. I felt guilty a week or two back commenting on the vileness of the film while you were rhapsodizing about the book. But alas, I see you have had to experience yourself the hard way of watching the movie. I agree, Renee Zellweger was about the only theatrical high point in the movie. Let’s hope we see (but doubtful) some better print to film translations in the future.

  5. Romania looks nothing like
    Romania looks nothing like WNC

    I have seen about half the movie at a friend’s house and was disgusted that Romania looks nothing like Western North Carolina. That was a big turn off…There are plenty of places up near Boone, NC which are remote enough for that movie to be filmed on location. But I guess they’d have to pay the union more.

    I used to live in Western North Carolina so I know of which I spout. Your criticism of the movie is well-founded.

  6. not to mention the none too
    not to mention the none too subtle irony of filming a movie about the American Civil War in northern Romania with the lead roles hailing from England and Australia (I think). Do we not have terrible enough actors here?

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