The book I am currently reading is a history of the Civil War. Anybody who knows me is aware that I love history–and I am particularly interested in that turbulent period in America.
As can be imagined, the War Between the States is not a hot topic here in Brazil. Even my lovely wife merely tolerates my ramblings about Gettysburg, Shiloh, Vicksburg, etc.
Last night, however, I treated myself by renting God’s and Generals from our local video store. From the opening credits–which scroll over various battle flags from both sides as they blow in the breeze–I was transfixed.
The storyline could have been better. In truth, a whole film could have been made about each of the battles (Manassas, Fredricksburg, and Chancellorsville). Instead, the film chronicles the actions of Stonewall Jackson (and, to a lesser extent, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain) during this time-frame. Thus, little attention is given to the changes in Union generals, and the smaller campaigns and events that took place between these major battles. People not up on their Civil War history could get a little confused.
What the movie lacks in plot continuity, however, it makes up for in breathtaking battle scenes. Great care was taken to insure the accuracy of troop movements, as well as reproduce the sight and sound of the battlefield. Many times the viewer gets the impression that he is watching the actual battle take place.
Particularly moving is a scene from the Fredricksburg campaign, where a Northern unit–made up entirely of Irish immigrants–attacks a fortified Confederate position–defended by Irish immigrants. The fierceness of the battle, combined with the emotion shown when both sides discover that they are firing on their own countrymen, makes for a heart-rending scenario.
Of particular interest was the film’s treatment of how religion influenced the main players of the war–especially Jackson. For a film produced by Ted Turner (he even has a small cameo in the movie–as a Confederate officer), the treatment of Stonewall’s faith–how it affected his loyalties, his relationships, his strategy–is surprisingly sympathetic. The tenderness he showed to his wife (esposita) and to children accurately portrays the human side of this oft-misunderstood historical figure.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is also portrayed as a believer who’s faith influences him to take up arms–albeit on the opposite side–in order to free the slaves.
If you are at all interested in Civil War history, this is a must-see film.