Showdown at Gettysburg

Sitting through a showing of the recent film Gettysburg in a multiplex theater amid the abstract sprawl of suburban Yankeedom was somehow an unnerving experience. I don't mean to say that the movie itself was off-putting or unsuccessful, though come to think of it, there were a few awkward moments here and there. No, the hard part was being in the presence of other Americans as the movie was shown. There seemed to be more at stake in that representation of history than the field where it was fought and filmed.

Gettysburg is a good movie as such, and as a movie about the Civil War, one of the best ever made, if not the best. It represents the contribution of many hundreds of reenactors; it is in effect a sort of pageant, a filmed reenactment. The figure of 30 million dollars has been cited as Ted Turner's investment in the project, and as you might expect, the footage (even longer than the four-plus hours of the theatrical release) is supposed to become a cable TV extravaganza and video release later on. It's fine with me if Ted Turner gets his money back. After all, Gettysburg is no ignoble undertaking, especially when compared with 90 percent of the trash that's released today. It's graphically striking and well worth seeing.

Jeff Daniels has been widely praised for his portrayal of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, "the Hero of Little Round Top," and rightly so. The...

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