[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball

8.12.2004

atonement on cold mountain

my friend leonidas didn't like cold mountain. i didn't understand his distaste when he first told me about it after we had both seen the film in theatrical release, and i certainly don't understand it now that i've watched it again on dvd over the weekend. from a christian perspective, the best thing i can say about it is: "that'll preach."

i met charles frazier, the author of the national book award-winning novel, when he read @ square books fairly soon after the book's publication. i was immediately taken w/ the story of a confederate army deserter, in the waning days of the civil war, making his epic journey home to cold mountain and the girl he loved w/o really even knowing her @ all (the loose model for the soldier, inman, was frazier's own uncle, and the allusions to the odessey are not accidental). then, after having read the book, i was delighted that it would be adapted to film. it was only when i saw the film, however, that i appreciated the thread of atonment running throughout.

if you haven't read the book or seen the film, i won't spoil it, but as examplars i commend to you, inter alia, the "goat woman's" tender sacrifice of one of her beloved animals; inman's lamentation that he had killed whatever good was in him through his despicable wartime acts and his fear that he had nothing to offer ada upon his return; and, in juxtaposition, the "scapegoat" scene @ the end (i'm not exactly sure whether the last scene is in the book or director/screenwriter anthony minghella wrote it in). minghella was quoted in an interview:
there are other things going on in this film, one of which was the look of how people find redemption and make atonement, the whole notion of walking and journeying in the same way as a pilgrimage in the medieval period was a penance that you did in order to be allowed home. that's very much in my mind as well as a simple romantic connection between a man and a woman.
(in case you click on that and wonder whether i read jack, i don't; in fact, i'd never heard of it until i googled "cold mountain" and "atonement." it's just that the first result i found was a link to ivillage.co.uk, which bills itself as "the website for women," and i just felt a little more comfortable linking to jack, thank you very much).

i don't see how anyone could watch the movie and not find the message of the horrible acts man commits, both in war and without, and the necessity of atonement for those acts. i have no idea whether frazier is a christian (he did write an intro to a pocket version of the book of job, but that doesn't really mean anything, i suppose), and i'm enough of a critic of reader-response criticism not to read anything back from my interaction w/ the book/film, but for me it was indeed a beautiful portrayal of grace.

if you're interested, jeffrey overstreet has written a review of the film, too. if you've nothing better to do this weekend, it's definitely worth a trip to the local video store or a netflix rental.

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