One cannot deny the awesome beauty of some of the camerawork in this adaptation of David Guterson's SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS. SNOW FALLING was a slow, lethargic, but overall compelling novel; the movie version is the same. Scott Hicks' direction is frustrating yet magnificent at times. For instance, in Max von Sydow's brilliant summation, the camera never leaves Max's face, and the sequence is overwhelming due to the power of von Sydow's speech. It's a key highlight of the movie. However, earlier on, Hicks tries the overdubbing of too many key scenes; for instance, when Hasue is reading her letter, he overdubs it several times, and it becomes irritating rather than moving; he tries this on other occasions and as a gimmick, it doesn't improve the overall effect. The acting ensemble is marvelous: Ethan Hawke, though not as compelling as he should have been, does well in displaying his anger, hurt, frustration and love; Youki Kodoh as the wife of the accused is wonderful, her spritely demeanor hiding a gigantic love for her husband and for Hawke; Rick Yune (Die Another Day) shows the difficulty in expressing emotion as was taught by his father; James Rebhorn as the prosecutor is great, one of his best roles; James Cromwell does well as the judge in a poorly adapted role; Sam Shepard is very good as Hawke's idealistic father; Celia Weston evokes the nasty prejudice of the time as the victim's coldhearted mother; Richard Jenkins is good as the sheriff caught up in something he's not used to--murder; and Eric Thal is good as the victim, should have had a little more screen time to flesh out his role, and make us feel a little more for him.
SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS is a lush, beautifully done film, with an Oscar worthy von Sydow performance; it's hard to stay with it, but if you do, I think you'll be rewarded.