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Death and The Civil War (American Experience)
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Based on the best-selling book by Drew Gilpin Faust, this film will explore how the American Civil War created a “republic of suffering” and will chart the far-reaching social, political, and social changes brought about by the pervasive presence and fear of death during the Civil War.
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At 120 minutes, Burns' pace is deliberate and provocative. The opening segment is jarring. A few moments before his death, a Mississippi soldier begins writing a letter to his father. The man bleeds onto the paper has he haltingly reveals his last thoughts about his life, service, death and afterlife. Within this 12 minute preface viewers' hearts may begin to break. The images that Burns selects include photography from the era; within the images there are ghosts, individuals who moved during the 30 second to a minute and half exposure time. There are subtleties in the images and texts that may move past the causal viewer; such may be the estimate that of the 750,000+ deaths 50% were not identified by name.
The chapters are each about 15 minutes in length: Death, Burying, Naming, Honoring, Believing and Doubting, Accounting, and Remembering. Drew Gilpin Faust is the most frequently interviewed expert during the film; generally her remarks impart important facts but on one occasion it appears that she minimizes the 6,500+ deaths during the Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom campaigns. The individual being interviewed who is most likely to be remembered is Thomas Lynch, undertaker and poet. He remarks defines and gently elevates the bleak discussions that, at times, may approach melodrama. The narration by Oliver Platt and music compositions by Brian Keane are effective in conveying grief and hope. Is there an 'Ashoken Farewell' on the soundtrack. Yes, possibly two: A Thousand Thoughts [Tusen Tankar] and Republic of Suffering in acoustic and orchestral versions. Both the film and the soundtrack are immediately available after the Tuesday evening broadcast and they are worth every penny and much more. Ric Burns' Death And The Civil War is an exceptionally fine work in the field of television broadcasting and presentation of historic artifacts, photographs and sentiments.
I saw this documentary and although I am a Civil War historian as well, I had never delved into the citizens left to deal with thousands of dead soldiers & animals when the warring armies lit out of town. This film is stunning, despite its subject matter, and I have the book that it is based on. The documentary is EXCELLENT! Today's citizens, mostly women & children, could never handle what these people had to do, yet they set about burying the dead as soon as possible with no resources but their own & it was a horrific & daunting task. The Civil War killed more men than ALL wars the U.S. has been involved in combined, and the only war fought on U.S. soil. It spawned changes & industries formerly unknown that we take for granted today. Yes, it's gruesome, unpleasant, and incredibly sad, but I highly recommend this to anyone interested in "how it really was back then" beyond the fairy tale of Scarlett O'Hara & "Gone With The Wind"---a fine & classic novel, my all time favorite movie---but it barely touches on the realities of life, especially in the South, at the time. There were many Heroes in the Civil War, but the women (and children)left to deal with the carnage and deprivation are rarely recognized. I highly recommend this documentary as one of American Experience's finest, and will no doubt say the same after I read the book it's based on. Death will come for us all---are you prepared?
There's really nothing I can write that will adequatly convey the impact of this documentary. This is a must-see for every American.
Recommneded in the strongest possible terms.
I am the Daughter/Granddaughter/Great Granddaughter of morticians, so death is my family business. But I never really thought about hos the social aspects of death would have been changed by the war. It's not a topic that is addressed in schools, as are many of the, what are considered, distasteful topics of life.
I am very glad that I watched this.