We are now exactly twenty days away from the release of the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut, and what better way to count it down than by getting the readers of this blog involved! Since November, the articles I have written on this site regarding the film have garnered more comments than anything else I have written in any category. I would like to thank those who keep checking back and who have spread this site to places it had never been before. But for now, I would like to hear from you about what your favorite scene in the film was. Please leave your response, as extensive as you want, in a comment below.
For me, there are many to choose from. Any part of the battle scenes from Fredericksburg could have topped the list, as well as when the Confederate troops were marching right before the battle of Chancellorsville, with the slowly building music of “V.M.I Will Be Heard From Today” playing in the background. Instead, I will choose the moment right before the battle of Fredericksburg begins, when Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) and his 20th Maine regiment are standing upon Stafford Heights, watching the other Union divisions slowly move into place. It is here where Chamberlain begins one of the better recited soliloquies in film history, when he cites the work of Pharsalia, written by Marcus Lucanus, who chronicled the Roman Civil War.
For anyone that has actually read Pharsalia (I have tried, but did not get very far), you will notice stark similarities between their conflict and ours. It is almost frightening how you could compare the two. Whether or not Chamberlain really did this before going into battle is irrelevant—he was a scholar, a professor of rhetoric at Bowdoin College, so it makes sense he would have something to say regarding history before heading into the first major battle of his life as a military colonel. This scene also perfectly illustrates the complexity and high level that this script is at. The scene, like the rest of the film, is epic in proportion. Below is what he says, with his brother and fellow soldiers standing closely behind him:
In the Roman Civil War, Julius Caesar knew he had to march on Rome itself, which no legion was permitted to do. Marcus Lucanus left us a chronicle of what happened: “How swiftly Caesar had surmounted the icy Alps when in his mind conceived immense upheavals, coming war. When he reached the water of the little Rubicon, clearly to the leader through the murky night appeared a mighty image of his country in distress; grief in her face, her white hair streaming off her tower-crowned head, with tresses torn and shoulders bare, she stood before him and sighing said, ‘Where further do you march? Where do you take my standards, warriors? If lawfully you come, if as citizens, this far only is allowed.’
Then trembling struck the leader’s limbs, his hair grew stiff and weakness checked his progress, holding his feet at the river’s edge. At last he speaks, ‘Oh thunderer, surveying great Rome’s walls from the Tarpeian Rock– oh Phrygian house gods of Iulus, clan and mysteries of Quirinus who was carried off to heaven– oh Jupiter of Latium, seated in lofty Alba and hearths of Vesta– oh Rome, equal to the highest deity, favor my plans. Not with impious weapons do I pursue you. Here I am, Caesar, conqueror of land and sea, your own soldier, everywhere, now too, if I am permitted. The man who makes me your enemy, it is he who be the guilty one.’
Then he broke the barriers of war and through the swollen river swiftly took his standards. And Caesar crossed the flood and reached the opposite bank. From Hesperia’s forbidden fields, he took his stand and said, ‘Here I abandon peace and desecrated law. Fortune, it is you I follow. Farewell to treaties. From now on war is our judge.’
Hail Caesar. We who are about to die salute you.
Let your voice be heard! What is your favorite scene?
To view the complete online script of Gods and Generals, click here. To read Pharsalia in its entirety, for free, click here. Please stay tuned for later today, when I will post four clips recently released by Warner Brothers, two from each of the Cut’s coming out!