The three of us sat in silence at the end and had to have a beer before going home. I’d read the book, another had read its beginning, the other none.
Two significant changes: removing the epistolary form of letters to Franklin was I can see necessary, but we thereby lost the final shock the addressee was dead; also necessary (I guess, as to keep the image would have been inconsistent with the film’s reluctance actually to show horror) was the moving of Kevin’s sister’s body from archery target to lawn.
What the film showed more clearly than the book, and that only, and rightly, at the end, was the connection and “love” between mother and son: “Why [did you do it]?” “I used to think I knew [to get at you, mom], but now I’m not so sure”. This redemption warms the departing audience, and leads to comparisons with myths: Oedipus obviously, but also Medea (killing family members to get at another one), and, strikingly clear in form, but harder to read thematically, the Odyssey’s Mnesterophonia where Odysseus shoots the trapped Suitors with his bow and arrows. With this the story completes Cold Mountain: the slaughter following the journey home.
And there’s no end, no separation: as in Fiona Shaw’s Medea the protagonists are left to work out their lives together – Eva’s joke about going to burn in Hell, although the film expertly never lets us directly know what she is thinking, is what she is actually living.
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