Cold Mountain Wisdom

As I was channel surfing one night this week as men are prone to doing, I came across one of the films that was moved into my top ten list of greatest films of all time. The Anthony Minghella-directed masterpiece that is Cold Mountain originally premiered in 2004 and stars Nicole Kidman and Jude Law and Reneé Zellweger in an Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG Award, and BAFTA winning performance. In addition to those three mega stars the film also has other major star players in supporting roles including Donald Sutherland, Jack White (from the White Stripes), Charlie Hunnam and Jena Malone. The Soundtrack is also superb featuring music from Jack White, Allison Krauss, and Sting. The trailer is below.

Many people might raise an eyebrow that I put Cold Mountain in my top ten films list but it truly has something for everybody: amazingly nuanced and well written characters, Civil War battle scenes, and a love so deep and meaningful that people are willing to go to hell and back to be reunited with one another. I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that the reunion love scene between Kidman and Law’s characters isn’t scandalously hot as well. In addition to all of this, the movie takes place in Cold Mountain, North Carolina which is less than an hour’s drive from where I was born, raised, and still live. So the scenery has often reminded me of the area of this world that I call home.

Only missing the first 20 minutes of the film, I immediately put the remote down and watched the rest of the movie. However, watching the movie this time something happened that had never happened before. On three separate occasions, I was moved to tears by the dialogue of the film. Confused as to why this happened this time and not any of the dozens of times I have watched the film before, I thought about why this could possibly be, and I was struck by something that was too perfect that I couldn’t not write about it. The reason I had to write about it? It is too perfect of an antidote to the madness that is going on in our world right now. Or, I guess I should say more specifically, the madness that is going on in our country.

The first scene that brought me to tears comes about half way through the movie and is shown in the two clips below (I couldn’t find one YouTube video that contained the entire scene). Early in the film the Civil War starts and it becomes clear the south is at a disadvantage when the Home Guard (the men on the horses who go to the farm), influential men who were able to weasel their way out of fighting in the war who have been tasked with tracking down and killing deserters and those who help them visit the Swanger’s farm. We do not know it until this scene, but the movie has insinuated that the Swanger’s young sons have deserted and they are being hidden on the family farm.

The seconds scene that made me emotional, perhaps the most emotional of the three, is about three quarters of the way through the film. Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman’s character) and Ruby Thewes (Reneé Zellweger’s character) have just learned that the Home Guard, the same people responsible for killing Sally Swanger’s husband and children, have supposedly killed Ruby’s father and another man that Ruby has a crush on. Ada struggles to find the right words to say to Ruby and Ruby responds by saying the following:

The Final scene from the movie that got me all up in my feelings comes near the very end of the movie. To set this scene, Ruby and Ada go off looking for Ruby’s father. While they are gone, they find her father and they also save his life. Additionally, they find W.P. Inman (Jude Law’s character), the love of Ada’s life who deserted the Confederate Army early in the war and has spent the entire movie trying to make his way back to her. The scene in the video below picks up as Ruby and Ada are going back to the farm where they live, and you should only watch the first 2 minutes of the scene if you do not want a major plot spoiler.

As I turned off the movie and started getting ready for bed that night, I made a point to figure out why I got emotional. I have seen that movie probably two dozen times. I even showed a heavily edited version of the film when I taught a social studies elective course called Geography in the Cinema several years ago; and yes, the three scenes are sad, but I have never been moved to tears before. So what made it different this time? Well, as I was working on some art projects the next day, I figured out the one thing that was different this time from all the others: This is the first time I have watched the movie during the presidency of Donald Trump.

In every single one of those scenes, in my opinion, there is is one line that stands out and cuts above all the rest. In the first two video clips it is what Ruby says at the very end that gets to me. In her shock, and grief, and anger, and sadness Ruby (an uneducated backwoods hick, by all accounts) eloquently states “This World won’t stand long. God won’t let it, stand this way long.”

This World won’t stand long. God, won’t let it, stand this way long.”

Reneé Zellweger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain

If you are anything like Ruby Thewes and me, you have felt this ghastly feeling throughout the majority of Donald Trump’s presidency. Through our outrage, indignation, tears, rage, and a myriad of other unwanted but necessary feelings we have lamented how America could have turned to this. How the country that has been the shining city on a hill as a beacon for freedom and liberty could be turned into what many of us see as the antithesis of America and her values. Ruby Thewes may be a fictional character, but she does what every single one of does when we face those feelings: she turns it over to God.

God won’t let it, stand this way long. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought that since the genitalia-grabbing gargoyle has occupied the people’s house. I have stared in disbelief as news cameras briefed the American people on what the President has said today (although a game of Mad Libs would probably be more appropriate). I have cried tears of sorrow looking at the pictures of the drowned bodies of Oscar Martinez Ramirez cradling his 3 month old daughter Valeria on the Banks of the Rio Grande River. I have looked at people whom I know and love and respect in disbelief as they try to defend the actions of Trump; and when I am left at a loss for words or for reassurance, I reassure myself by reminding myself that God will see us through this current nightmare.

We will be seen through this, just like our nation was seen through the Revolution. Or the Civil War. Or the Civil Rights Movement and countless other times when our nation has struggled to live up to be the nation we know she truly is. We must remain steadfast in our belief, just as Ruby is. We must constantly remind ourselves that this is not normal. That none of what is happening is okay or acceptable. We cannot waver in our belief that God and his love for all people won’t let this world that Trump and his minions are trying to create last long. God won’t let it stand this way long.

The second scene is one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie. Ruby has spent the better half of the movie reconciling with her father for a terrible childhood and her reaction to learning that he is now most likely dead is heartbreaking. It’s made even better by Zellweger’s impeccable acting. What she says in her response to Ada’s apology, however, is indicative to the way our government has functioned over the last two decades. Ruby places all the hardships that she and the South are currently facing, squarely at the feet of their leaders.

Every piece of this is man’s bull shit… They call this war a cloud over the land, but they made the weather, and then they stand there and say ‘shit it’s rainin’!

Reneé Zellweger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain

If that is not the perfect example of the way our politicians operate, I don’t know what is. We have so-called leaders on both sides of the aisle obstructing the governance of this nation and only looking out for themselves. The Civil War, once it was apparent the South was going to lose, became known as the cloud over the land. Ruby was right though, the people in charge were the ones who made the choice to go to war and now they are lamenting the fact they are not going to get there way.

Both of our current political parties are guilty of doing the exact same thing. It started during the Clinton Presidency and it has gotten worse and worse, and all our politicians seem to do is complain about how they can get nothing done. Once again, Ruby was right: every piece of this is man’s bull shit. And our so called leaders have nobody to blame but themselves. They did this. They created this mess. They made this cloud on our land. And they keep making it worse.

The last clip really got me, but it also gave me the most hope and strength going forward. When staring the man who is responsible for much of the problems and stress in her life and facing the fact that she knew she was most likely going to be killed right then, Ada Monroe confidently looks the leader of the Home Guard in the eye and states what she knows and I know to be true: a reckoning is coming.

There will be a reckoning when this war is over. There will be a reckoning.

Nicole Kidman as Ada Monroe in Cold Mountain

Long after we are through this national nightmare and Trump is no longer President, there will be a reckoning. There will be a reckoning where judgement is passed and a sentence is given. It won’t be just Trump, either. It will be his lecherous family and his basket of deplorable billionaire henchmen who have helped him carry out these illegal injustices. Injustice shall be met cruelly and swiftly with true and lasting American justice. The history books will record the Trump era as nothing more than it truly is: one of the darkest stains on the American Democracy in its history.

It will not just be Trump and those in his administration that have to face a reckoning. It will be those who have stood silent (and therefore complicit) in his racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia. I am under no illusions that every single person voted for Trump is racist. I know that is not true. With that said, though, a storm is coming on the horizon. The 2020 election will be an event that this nation will have to figure out who it truly is. Those of you who are considered voting for Trump, I ask you now to reconsider, because a reckoning is coming and if you are not opposed to all of the hatred that Trump is bring to the forefront of the consciousness of this nation than you are for it. And in this reckoning, justice will be served, Cold Mountain Style.

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