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Sunday June 16th 2024

Cold Mountain | 2003

Soon after meeting, and with barely a kiss, Ada (Nicole Kidman) is separated from Inman (Jude Law) when he sets off from the little town of ‘Cold Mountain, North Carolina’ to fight against the damn Yankees in the Civil War.

Severely wounded and disillusioned, Inman struggles to get back home, while city-girl Ada, with the help of tough, no-nonsense Ruby (Renée Zellweger) learns to live off the land.

The story is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and, as the novel’s author Charles Frazier observed, “You can’t go to California or Canada and have those mountains stand in for our mountains”.

And indeed, the film company didn’t go to California or Canada. It went to Romania.

Apart from budgetary concerns, this also meant that that powerlines and modern buildings didn’t need to be digitally removed, and the snow, called for in the script, didn’t need to be added.

The opening battle scene, the savage Battle of the Crater at ‘Petersburg, Virginia’ in 1864 was staged on farmland in the remote village of Potigrafu, Romania, about 25 miles north of capital Bucharest, where Production Designer Dante Ferretti recreated the historic crater to scale, 170 feet long, 30-50 feet deep and 60-80 feet wide.

The production moved from Bucharest to Poiana Brasov in the Transylvanian Alps for the rest of the European shoot, where the entire 19th century Cold Mountain settlement was built, modelled on towns researched by Ferretti in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.

Among the 32 traditionally-built, rough-hewn log buildings were 'Black Cove Farm' (the Monroe homestead), a general store, stables, mill, bank, laundry and chapel complete with its own cemetery.

The 2012 TV miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys, with Kevin Costner, was filmed in the same area.

Although the farmstead and village, and much of Inman’s arduous trekhome, were filmed in Romania, part of the production was filmed back in the US.

When the badly-injured Inman is taken to a colonial mansion turned into a hospital for Confederate Soldiers, it’s Carter's Grove Plantation, 8797 Pocahontas Trail, Williamsburg, Virginia. The house was built in 1755 for Carter Burwell – no, not the Coen Brothers' regular composer, but the grandson of Robert 'King' Carter, the wealthiest and most politically influential man in mid-18th-century Virginia.

The property was acquired by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in the 1960s and was opened to the public as a museum. Carter's Grove remained open to tourists until 2003 when Hurricane Isabel seriously damaged the road which linked the estate to the Historic Area. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation sold the proerty to Halsey Minor, effectively closing it to the public.

In despair, Inman leaves the hospital to begin the long trek back home to Ada. During his journey he "walks along a rocky track, falling away to the river at one side, a steep cliff to the other, the way itself broken and precarious. There he meets Reverend Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a corrupt preacher.

The French Huguenot Church, 136 Church Street in the French Quarter of Charleston, South Carolina, is where Inman leaves the corrupt minister tied to a fence.

Their paths, though, cross again, and the river where Veasey finds a large saw, which comes in useful for dismembering a huge carcass, was shot at Belle Isle, in the James River in the heart of Richmond.

The swamp is Cypress Gardens, 3030 Cypress Gardens Road, Moncks Corner, seen also in productions such as Swamp Thing and Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot, with Mel Gibson.

The town square, where Inman talks with the blind peanut vendor, is the College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston – another location seen in The Patriot and in The Notebook. The Library became an Auction House, while Church Street above Broad Street became a street scene with wooden sidewalks and hitching posts.

Inman finally makes it back to 'Cold Mountain', to find a much-changed Ada. It’s back to Romania and Zarnesti Gorge, a deep and narrow limestone canyon caused by the collapse of a cave roof, within Piatra Craiului National Park, for the dramatic closing scenes.