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"Cold Mountain"

JUST BE prepared to chill. It's a long journey and there is no place for any impatience. As the mournful drum beat of Anthony Minghella's film ``Cold Mountain" based on a moving novel by Charles Frazier, rises and falls with a death like cadence, the rich texture of a time long gone might seem misplaced in today' s context. Here a man and woman who barely know each other are separated by war and yearn to get back together to fulfil what seems like a life long commitment. A love story set amidst the smoke of the cannon and the hearth it shows how both have been traumatized by the insanity of war.

The film's parallel stories unfold in separate scenes as the couple, the laconic Inman (Jude Law) and Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) the daughter of the local parish minister, meet. Just as they begin to get a sense of each other, war sends them their separate ways - he has to go and fight for the Confederacy, while she remains in Cold Mountain, North Carolina, to look after her ailing father.

But as days go on and the war does not seem to end, the two remain apart but connected enough - Inman spends many days on the battlefront but somewhere his enthusiasm wanes when he is shot trying to save a fellow soldier. He is almost dying and that is when a volunteer reads out a letter written by Ada imploring him to come back to her. This is the thin thread by which his life hangs and all he wants to do now is to recuperate enough to get back to his Ada.

The journey home is treacherous - he is disillusioned and along the way meets cheats, traitors and help from unexpected quarters - each episode compelling and austere. Meanwhile Ada's father has passed away and she is finding it difficult to manage the farm, considering she has been raised as a lady and not to do menial jobs. But she has no money and does not want to marry the local home guard who is pestering her to accept him.

Inman journeys into self-realisation and so does Ada - but in her case coming to her rescue is the brassy Ruby (Renee Zellweger). They learn from each other and keep the farm running. They wait too. For Inman to return and the war to end.

The director provides a marvellous backdrop for this tale to unfold, but does so at a slow pace. The very episodes that are compelling individually together become repetitive — as running, being captured, escaping, fleeing, being captured again and escaping once again. No doubt love and determination maketh a strong man, but Minghella takes too much time. So much so one starts yearning for Inman to hurry up and reach Ada.

The skill and mastery of the makers are evident right from the opening scene. But often the passion is missing. Evident perhaps in the performances of both Nicole and Jude Law. Nicole looks good but never does she completely get into the character and deliver a performance that could be termed memorable. As for Law he is expressionless at crucial moments. True he is a man of few words, but for the audiences to empathise with him, there needs to be more anguish and longing. Renee as Ruby gives a good performance - she looks the part of a farmhand and is abrasively commanding.

CHITRA MAHESH

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