I over-use the word 'epic', particularly in regard to movies. But what other word is there for a picture of this magnitude?
When the cast-members number in the tens of thousands, and the long shots take in views that sweeping and dramatic - without recourse to CGI - then there is no better description.
The 1993 movie Gettysburg is epic.
It's also the longest American film ever shown. The theater version is four and a quarter hours; the director's cut even longer.
Gettysburg was originally shot as a mini-series, but when financier Ted Turner saw it, he decided to send it into the cinemas instead. It's not hard to see why. This is a movie which demands to be shown on a big screen. You need that to take in the sheer scale.
The wealth of historically accurate background detail is over-whelming. Civil War enthusiasts were drafted in from all over America. They brought with them their own uniforms, weapons and all the other bits and pieces which make them look authentic.
These were people obsessed with getting every tiny detail correct. They re-enact the period in troops from Georgia to Washington State. But in 1992, they were following in the footsteps of their grandparents or great-grandparents by amassing outside the real town of Gettysburg.
In some cases, this was quite literally. A man in the blue uniform of the Army of the Potomac was standing on the stone wall, overlooking the re-enactment of Pickett's Charge. He realized, with a chill and a welling of emotion, that he was standing on precisely the same spot, where his own grandfather witnessed and shot upon the real thing.
He wasn't the only emotional soul on in that place. Different actors kept recalling the same thing in similar words. This was the real Gettysburg battlefield. Permission had been wrangled into letting certain scenes be filmed there, like the (in)famous Pickett's Charge and the brutal clash at Little Round Top.
"It's hallowed ground," said one actor. "Sacred ground," spoke another. Jeff Daniels, who played Joshua Chamberlain, said that it was not like any other movie that he had ever acted in. There was all that weight of responsibility. Hallowed, sacred ground; and the ghosts of the dead watching on.
Wow! That really much have been something to see. I do love living history displays. It helps to imagine the reality so much better, even if these things omit the more unsavoury elements. Probably for the best!
I was smack dab in the middle of a reenactment of one of the battles with my husband and all my children. I'm telling you! A memorable experience! :)
I would love to visit Gettysburg. I've watched so many documentaries and read so many books about it now, I'd like to see where it all happened. What was it like being there?
I agree with you about Ken Burns.
You’re right. Historical novelists can take liberties. But for historical accuracy documentaries by Ken Burns are an excellent resource. We visited the Gettysburg battle grounds. A memorable experience. Great review!!!
It's one of the few occasions when I'll actually forgive the film-makers for not passing the Bechdel Test. Women were there, and their stories should be told, but I think it may have looked a little forced in this particular film. Overwhelmingly those at Gettysburg were male, and this tells that fact very strongly.
We just need a part two now, which focuses upon the women there!
I thought Gettyburgs was a wonderful movie - maybe a liitle long - but so dreamatic and real. Unfortunaately there was an opportunity that was not used. As you mentioned, the women of the war were not memtioned. What a shaeme.
I'd forgotten all about 'The West'! Yes, that was an amazing documentary. I didn't realize that it was also Ken Burns.
I live the ken burns documentary you refer to. I live his doc ' the west' too