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Cold Mountain - Anthony Minghella Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Where did you first encounter the novel?
A.
I think I’d gone on record and said in an interview that I would never do another adaptation and one week later, I was flying to Toronto, to spend some time with Michael Ondjanti, who wrote The English Patient, and who has become a very close friend. As I left, he gave me a novel and said: "My publisher’s giving me this for you to read and you should take a look at it."
So I put it in my bag and I went home and when I got home there were two Fed-ex parcels waiting for me, and I opened them and they were both Cold Mountain. Then I got a call within a few days from Berkley, where I’d been living, and it was someone saying that he had some galley proofs of a novel called Cold Mountain, and did I want it sent to me. And I assume that this was some kind of augury. So it just seemed to keep falling on my head this book, so I reluctantly read it.

Q. Anthony I assume this was the main reason for picking Transylvania as North Carolina?
A:
I was heart-broken that we had to leave North Carolina because it’s a book whose soul is very much about a particular place; there’s a real Cold Mountain and there was a real Inman and [production designer] Dante Ferreti and I spent six months looking for locations and planning the film in the place it was set, and then the budget came in and the plug was pulled and I was really distressed about having to go somewhere else.
But, as is always the case with movies, there’s always a blessing attached to the curse. And the reality was that if I could have got the additional monies I needed to go back to North Carolina, I wouldn’t have done, because what I found in Romania was something so consonant with the film, and so beautiful and untrammelled, and obviously the thing to say about Transylvania, is that it hasn’t been the recipient of, or hostage to, the industrial revolution, so what you’re seeing is this virgin landscape.
So when Jude is learning to plough by hand in one field, there’s someone ploughing by hand in the next field. I remember driving past a field full of people scything the harvest and it really was like time travelling.
Everything about that area, which made the film beautiful and difficult to make, I felt in front of the camera was so extraordinary. And Dante Feretti was able to create a foreground that was entirely made by him ­ every farm, we grew every crop, every corn field, every tobacco field; we built every single building that’s in the film. He can build the foreground, but no designer can create the background. And what was wonderful was to be able to use this, it just goes on and on forever there, and it was an extraordinary place, with extraordinary people who were very good to us.

Q. One of the most remarkable achievements in the film is the romantic tension that’s sustained through very little dialogue and very few scenes. Obviously that’s down to casting, directing and writing, but was it ever a concern for you that people had to buy into the reality of Inman being driven on his journey by Ada?
AM:
I remember when I was researching The English Patient, and I kept reading about wartime romances and war brides, and this strange thing that happens, that when death is very close at hand, life becomes very urgent and it accelerates relationships. People cling to each other, people cling to life in the face of cruelty and death. It feels to me that in these periods all the volume controls are turned up: The camaraderie and compassion exists with enormous illustrations of violence and lack of tenderness.
There were stories of soldiers returning from the Second World War and being greeted by a sea of faces of women at the barricades, and not knowing which one they married four or five years previously. It felt very true to me, that part of the story.
But also, I would say this, that first of all, these characters are very conscious of the fact that they hardly know each other, it’s the thing that pre-occupies them. They’re holding on to the idea of something good in the face of something bad.


Q. Nicole, does that raise the stakes for you and Jude in those few scenes you have?
A.
It was certainly something that the three of us talked about, because it was really like a triangle in terms of Anthony, Jude and I, when we embarked on this together. It was a strange coming together when we had the rehearsal period.
Jude and I were like, ‘okay, how do we make it believable’, when we would literally share, at most, a kiss and glances and the occasional minute touch of a hand, and then make it believable that that would stay present in someone’s head and be their light for such a long period of time and draw them back.
I would constantly be saying to Anthony, ‘are you sure we’ve got enough’? And it was more up to him to know what he’d captured, because I think we were both so existing in it, that you’re really in the hands of the director.
And I hope, you hope, that people will buy into it, that people will believe it. It’s also an idea that Jude and I bought into, as we were basically passing ships in the night, because he would be carrying one part of the film, and I would go back to America, and then I would come back and he would go back to London, so we were constantly crossing in the night.
But we would constantly say to each other, hold it, remember it in the scenes, the presence of each other. Because we were both very much aware of trying to feed that into each scene, to the point where you feel snow and you remember Inman, that everybody, somehow, has a presence of the person, that you’re still seeing the world through there eyes. Which I think is when you are existing with the thought of someone, you view the world with them, even if they’re not there.
AM: I wrote this moment, when Ada is reading from Wuthering Heights, about the love of Kathy and Heathcliff (‘Little visible delight, but necessary.’) And that seemed to be the clue to the character.
But also, we weren’t simply trying to make a love story, and I think if we had, we’d have approached the film differently.
The relationship between Ada and Ruby is at least as significant as the one between Ada and Inman. And the fact that they’re both on journeys, and their journeys collide, is important ,and it was also the case that Jude is on an odyssey to get home. Ada stands in for home. In the same way that there is a real Cold Mountain, there’s a series of Buddhist poems called Cold Mountain, which is a spiritual destination.
If you’ll allow me to at least say there are other things going on in this film, one which is to look at how people find redemption, and how they find atonement, and the whole emotion of walking and journeying, in the same way that a pilgrimage in the medieval period was a penance that you did to be allowed home. That was very much in my mind in the film, as well as the simple romantic connection between a man and a woman.

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