Cold Mountain is an old-fashioned epic with the glittering
talent of Nicole Kidman and Jude Law but why has it picked up so much early Oscar buzz?
Cold Mountain is the story of a couple longing
for one another in a world laid barren by America's Civil War.
Law and Kidman spend little screen time together
Based on the Charles Frazier bestseller adapted by Cold Mountain's director Anthony Minghella, it is a film that highlights the
brutality of battle.
It follows the quest of Inman, played by Law, a war-weary deserter who makes his way home to the woman he loves.
Minghella said his starting point had been his love for the original book.
He said: "I love what it was about. I loved the fact
that it was set in the past but had a lot of things to say about the present
and it's also a version of The Odyssey.
"So it's got this mixture of
characters out of fairytale and myth and legend, and then this really urgent
story of what was going on in the mountains of North Carolina during the
Cold Mountain cuts between Inman in battle and his journey home and Ada, as played by Kidman, on the home front.
With a romance set against the backdrop of the civil war it evokes memories of the film Gone With The Wind.
It's all to
Anthony Minghella's credit that he's managed to make an epic that is in many
ways more profound than that 1939 classic due to the manner in which he explores relationships.
Ada and Inman's relationship exists much
more in voiced-over correspondence in the film than it does in hours and minutes spent together on screen.
Speaking about the lovers' separation on screen, Kidman said: "I said to Jude and Anthony early on, if we can make a film about longing,
that aches, then I would be very happy.
"In a strange way, it's such a beautiful state to exist in, you know, the state of longing, and if you can somehow put that on screen, then that really interests me. "
Much of the film focuses on Inman's heartfelt quest to return to the
community of Cold Mountain and Ada.
But it's not an easy trip - en route he encounters many lawless and barbaric acts and Law said it was hard for him as an actor to really feel what his character experienced.
"I could never compare what I would consider obstacles to
those Inman is faced.
Zellweger gives a strong performance
"And there's a certain part of you as an
actor that feels that you are presumptuous to imagine that you are anywhere
close to feeling what these people certainly in that period went through."
Cold Mountain has been praised for its bold casting.
Renee Zellweger's portrayal of Ada's helpmate and friend is at first a little overdone but you soon accept her portrayal of spirited can-do woman as credible.
Jude Law is very effective as Inman, a complex character with a
strong inner life that he doesn't express verbally.
Law said: "I felt like over the last eight years I've been putting on layers of
technique and craft and trying and trickery and all sorts of stuff that has
challenged me, but suddenly it was time to kind of open up and show my
heart, I suppose."
Nicole Kidman as Ada with the longing heart also gives a compelling performance.
Cold Mountain benefits from its well wrought screenplay adapted from a
strong book - one that provides a romance but is really an epic that is all
about war and how it distorts lives.
What Minghella brings us very, very effectively is the all pervasive
evil engendered by war.
But it's not all bleak because at the centre of the horror is a stirring
story told without undue sentiment of human perseverance amid the ruins.
It is the tale of just a man and a woman who against all odds manage to retain their dignity and survive different journeys propelled by the sweet yearning they have for one
Tom Brook's report on Cold Mountain is on Talking Movies on BBC World on Saturday 20 November at 2130GMT and on BBC News 24 on Saturday at 0530, 1530 and 2230GMT.