In the Dark

Reason’s Enemy

Copperhead
Produced by Swordspoint Productions 
Directed by Ronald F. Maxwell 
Screenplay by Bill Kauffman 
Distributed by Brainstorm Media 

What makes a good war story?  Cannons, bombs, bloody bodies, and bounding heroes?  Stephen Crane’s short story “An Episode of War” demonstrates it can be achieved by other means.  It fully registers the madness, horror, and folly of armed combat in 1,600 words punctuated with but a single rifle shot.

Crane envisioned a young lieutenant in the process of dividing coffee rations, using his sword to apportion the beans into mathematically equal amounts for distribution among his squads.  At the completion of this innocent and, one may say, peaceful effort, a sniper’s bullet hits his arm.  The contrast between the lieutenant’s “great triumph in mathematics,” as the narrator describes his coffee apportionments, and war’s fundamental irrationality couldn’t be starker.

War is always the enemy of reason.

I was reminded of Crane’s literary economy while watching Ron Maxwell’s new Civil War film, Copperhead.  Based on Harold Frederic’s 1894 novel of the same title, it couldn’t be more unlike Maxwell’s earlier Civil War films, Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. ...

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