If I had my way they'd take metal altogether out of this world. Every blade, every gun.
While I don't consider Natalie Portman to be an especially gifted actress, occasionally she is capable of giving wonderful performances. She truly shined in Closer and thanks to perfect casting and incredible support from the director Darren Aronofsky, she created mesmerizing work in Black Swan. One of the performances of hers I especially adore is her heartbreaking work in Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain.
Cold Mountain is an average film, but it has some great things in it - one of them is an incredible cast - there are so many great actors here and all of them get their chance to shine. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson and Giovanni Ribisi all make memorable appearances but there is one short performance that steals spotlight from all of them and from three leads of the picture - Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Academy Award winning role by Renee Zellweger. And that performance is Natalie Portman as Sara.
Set during American Civil War, the movie follows deserter who tries to make it home to see his beloved. His name is Inman. As he travels and he meets different people and sees many atrocities and debaucheries of war, we follow him. He finds himself on the small farm owned by Sara. She is a young widow, left completely alone with her small child, who is currently ill.
Sara is kind and as soon as she sees Inman doesn't mean her harm, she feeds him and helps him. At night she asks if she can lie next to him in bed, just to feel the closeness of someone who "doesn't want anything more from her". Soon we get to understand the horrific meaning behind these words. The soldiers come on the farm and try to extort livestock from her, by lying her little baby, already ill, on the cold ground. After she agrees to give them the last animals that are her only hope to survive, one of the soldiers brutally rapes her. It is clear that things like this have happened to her before.
Inman manages to kill the rapist and goes outside to talk to the other soldier - the young man (Cillian Murphy) who covered the baby with his coat, but was so afraid of his commending officer he stood oddly by as Sara was threatened and raped. Inman is prepared to let him go, the soldier thanks him and starts walking away. Suddenly Sara emerges from the cabin, covered in blood and she shoots him dead, with the vengeful, cold look on her face. Years after seeing the movie, that look on Portman's face is what I remember best.
Once happy with the husband who took care of her, she is now alone, after he dies and she will never see him again. Delicate young girl with a small baby, living in the small cabin, she needs to take care of herself. And she keeps being harassed and violated by ruthless soldiers - something that finally kills her kindness.
I know many people were upset when she killed the kind soldier, but was he really kind? Is someone who does a small, decent thing when something horrible is happening a good person? He didn't stop what was going on. He might have been hungry and maybe even good natured, but I was so glad when she shot him, which was probably the first time she felt justice was done during that war.
Things get even more bleak, unfortunately - in the original script, Inman stays with Sara to help clean up after the encounter with the Union soldiers, but Sara’s baby dies and a grief-stricken Sara shoots herself. This is one of the deleted scenes on the DVD. Considering that I was already horrified by what was shown in the movie, I'm glad that they spared us seeing this scene in the theatrical version of the film.