“Gods and Generals” Countdown: Your Favorite Scene!

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!

9 thoughts on ““Gods and Generals” Countdown: Your Favorite Scene!

      1. Gettysburg Resident

        To be perfectly honest (and please don’t shoot me down for this – Greg or anybody else!), i haven’t seen G&G!!!!!! I only got into the civil war about a year ago and i didn’t purchase Gettysburg on DVD until around August! I intended to purchase G&G extremely soon after that but then i read (either on here on elsewhere) the rumor about the Extended Cut release and so i decided to wait until it was released and see it for the first time as the director intended. Also that meant i wouldn’t have to purchase it twice (although i AM buying the May release AND the limited July box set). Have i done the right thing? Do you think i’ll enjoy it better seeing it this way? I could always purchase the original after viewing the new version.

      2. Yes, you did the right thing. I have told many people who want to see G & G that have not to just wait for the end of may. It will be better that way, and give you a more complete viewing experience. The only down side will not be being able to have fun and see which scenes are newly included, and which scenes had a minute or so added to them.

        Just make sure to post your thoughts after you watch them! There will be a separate post for that when it comes out.

  1. Steven

    Like you said, Greg, it’s hard to choose from the many beautiful scenes in the film. So I will narrow it down to two:

    1. Acting Scene: “Jackson’s Farewell Address.” Stephen Lang was great as Jackson, and the scene where he says farewell to the 1st Virginia Brigade is a beautiful piece of acting. My only complaint is that the scene is terribly misplaced in the theatrical version, occurring before Fredericksburg (The scene takes place is the Fall of 1861, not 1862). But that looks like it will be corrected in the Extended Version, since based on the new clips shown in the preview, the scene where he informs his men he has been promoted, and transferred to the Valley, will be included. This will put it right where it should be, which is right after First Manassas.

    2. Battle Scene: “Marye’s Heights Sequence – Fredericksburg.” The entire sequence of December 13th, 1862 is, to my mind, the best Civil War battle sequence on film today (Just in front of Pickett’s Charge from “Gettysburg”). You really get a sense of the intense firepower coming from behind the stonewall there, and you cannot help but feel sorrow for the Union soldiers sent on this fool’s errand to take the nearly impenetrable position. The scene of the Irish Brigade charging against the Confederate Irish unit under Cobb is very emotional. I remember tearing up at this part when I saw the film in theaters the second time around. You not only get a visceral sense of the battle, but you also experience the battle on an emotional level. Which, to quote James I. Roberston, is a testament to Ron Maxwell.

    God bless!

  2. Blake

    I could come up with a laundry list as well, but I’ll try to limit myself to two or three. Greg beat me to the punch with the recitation of Pharsalia. However, I’d like to make an addendum to what he wrote: it was only after reading Marcus Lucanus a few years back that I realized how carefully modulated is Daniels’ speech in the film, because he’s not reciting Lucanus verbatim. Much of it is paraphrased, and is emblematic of how hard the filmmakers worked to shape the dialog into something organic to the time period and yet to have it spoken with a certain naturalism (not necessarily realism).

    If I had to choose a favorite scene, it would probably be Jackson, Lee, and Stuart coordinating the attack on Chancellorsville in the early morning hours of May 1st. This scene is not pedantic, nor merely logistical; it has an urgency that kick-starts the last act of the film. It’s fascinating to watch Lang and Duvall as the collaborating generals, feeling out their strategy based on the scant information available to them. Aside from that, Maxwell, his actors, and Kees Van Oostrum’s great cinematography all do a remarkable job evoking the inconvenient hour of night at which the soldiers make these plans. It reminds me of George C. Scott’s line in Dr. Strangelove, “The Air Force never sleeps.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night to solve work-related issues, so maybe that’s one reason the scene sticks out in my mind (more so now than when I first saw the film, as a teenager).

    But I could also cite Jackson’s night-time conversation with Jim Lewis (a scene that is often misinterpreted), or Lee hearing of Jackson’s imminent death, or any of the scenes between Jackson and Anna, or Kilrain’s acerbic deliveries, or Fanny reciting Richard Lovelace, or Hancock’s encounter with Martha … there’s that laundry list.

  3. Pingback: The “Gods and Generals” Blogging Experience by the Numb3r « From New York to San Francisco

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