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Imagine a movie that is suspenseful, historical, and full of action. In 1863, an epic event occurred in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which was made in to a movie in 1992. This location is now visited by thousands of visitors and is considered a historical landmark.
“Gettysburg”, the movie, featured an all-star cast that provided impeccable performances describing a horrible event that changed the course of the Civil War. Six different perspectives describing the visual communication of the movie will be analyzed. Perspectives by David Lodge, give an analytical criticism on how the movie is to be interpreted by the audience. Analyzation into the perspectives will give a detailed account of what the director wanted to accomplish. These different perspectives give the movie a “flavor” into how it is sampled by the audience.
My gut reaction to this film is it was a failed attempt by the Confederates to send a message to the Union forces. Communication was mediocre and each side relied on messengers to get information on each other. The battle was more of a political agenda for Robert Lee to prove he can beat the Union Forces even though his second-in-command, James Longstreet strongly disagreed. “Lee sought to score politically meaningful victories, take the war out of the ravaged Virginia farmland, and gather supplies for his army” (“Gettysburg,” n.d.). As a result of Lee’s failure, 51,000 soldiers were killed, injured, etc.
As Union forces were unknowingly receiving reinforcements, the Confederates thought they had an advantage. “Lee attacked the Federals on the heights, but failed to dislodge the defenders” (“Gettysburg,” n.d.). The heights were two hills that the Union gained ground on and the Confederates needed this area to complete a victory, unfortunately fighting going up a hill proves to be difficult. The hills were called Little Round Top and Big Round Top. The reason the Confederates wanted to take the hills is they could have flanked the entire Union army causing even more bloodshed. “Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain dashed headlong into history, leading his 20th Maine Regiment in perhaps the most famous counterattack of the Civil War” (Brann, 2014). Lawrence’s Maine regiment fought the Confederates until they ran out of ammunition. The famous counterattack was famous due to the ingenuity of Colonel Chamberlain; attacked using bayonets. The enemy, heavily fatigued and overheated, surrendered. This act of bravery earned Colonel Chamberlain the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Civil War was based off of many economic perspectives. “In the mid-19th century, while the United States was experiencing an era of tremendous growth, a fundamental economic difference existed between the country’s northern and southern regions” (“American Civil,” n.d.). In the North, manufacturing and farming was flourishing. The South’s economy depended on growing cotton and tobacco which were picked by African-American slaves. The South was fearful that their “workers” would disappear due to the Northern States encouraging freedom.
The creation of The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 by President Lincoln made the southern half of the United States very nervous. “On September 22, soon after the Union victory at Antietam, he issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, hence forward, and forever free” (“Emancipation Proclamation,” n.d.). The movie depicted exactly to what the history books had written.
The film followed the timeline along with a narrative to explain how the movie was going to start off. According to (Ebert, 1993), “This is a film, pure and simple, about the Battle of Gettysburg in the summer of 1863, about the strategies, calculations, mistakes and heroism that turned the tide of the Civil War decisively against the South.” The movie went into depth about how the military men lived their lives, left behind friends, and accepted death.
The film provided realism in providing many scenes that seemed lifelike to me; smoke, injured bodies, and uniforms that were evident of the time period. Adding to the realism of the conflict, many charitable organizations took part in “Gettysburg” reenactments. “Each year the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee (GAC), local organizers of the Annual Gettysburg Reenactment, choose several community and preservation causes and support these organizations with a portion of the proceeds from the event” (“Preservation,” n.d.). The movie’s success in the technical perspective was the thousands of personnel that participated from different organizations to recreate the march of the Confederates towards the conflict. Each participant has their own uniform, musket, etc. Putting all these participants together honored the brave men who gave their lives during this conflict.
According to (Egan, 2012), “I have never had a more intimate experience with history as I did the day we filmed that scene on the actual battlefield.” Brian Egan was one of the actors in the movie and he was describing the final march across the field towards the final battle with the Union troops. This technical perspective gave insight to marching through heat, high grass, and not seeing the enemy until it was too late.
The morals indicate that the war was believed to be insignificant to one side and the other side fought in keeping their values and land intact. According to (Weigel, 2016), “If Gettysburg was the pivot of the Civil War, and if the Civil War changed the country from “the United States are…” to “the United States is… then the United States as we know it was forged on July 1-3, 1863, outside a small crossroads town in Pennsylvania” The ethical perception of the movie illustrates that even though many people were killed, it demonstrated how the country should be molded. How soldiers from opposing sides feel they “wronged” each other, two veterans from the actual event met at Gettysburg in 1913. “two Civil War veterans, one from the South and one from the North, walked through the town of Gettysburg together, bought a hatchet together in a hardware story, re-ascended Cemetery Ridge together, and buried the hatchet together at the Bloody Angle” (Weigel, 2016). This was a sign that ethically they did a bad thing, but rather forgets about it, decided to come to amends with each other.
Symbols that were inherent of the culture during that time were the destroyed properties of the Gettysburg residents. “The battle brought devastation to the residents of Gettysburg. Every farm field or garden was a graveyard. Churches, public buildings and even private homes were hospitals, filled with wounded soldiers” (“History and Culture,” n.d.). The scenery of the movie included what a war would bring. The cultural perspective was a depressing one; death and devastation.
What the movie did not show was the cultural perspective of the aftermath of the war. The last medical ward did not leave until two years after the war. More than 19,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were treated and released. “By January 1864, the last patients were gone as were the surgeons, guards, nurses, tents and cookhouses” (“History and Culture,” n.d.). So many patients went through this location that a request was made to build a hospital.
The issue of the film aims at what aggression each side had during the war. Also, what happened at the end was a very critical moment. The critical perspective of the movie was amassing many people to achieve the realism of going into battle. “Probably no American movie has devoted more time to discussions of battlefield strategy than “Gettysburg”, which is a film to warm the cockles of a military tactician’s heart” (Holden, 1993). The movie was very expertly created that critics were very impressed.
The movie was criticized as being too much of a drama. “The same meticulousness that went into its battle scenes has produced a bloated screenplay (by Mr. Maxwell) in which the characters soliloquize and debate in a flowery language that aspires toward a Shakespearean elevation” (Holden, 1993). The debate, in which Mr. Holden claims, is what the rhetoric idealizes the realism of the film’s description.
The movie, “Gettysburg”, was made to bring the public aware of a war that shaped the United States history. This event changed the course of the war which was very advantageous to the North. The movie featured six different perspectives according to David Lodge. Perspectives by David Lodge, give an analytical criticism on how the movie is to be interpreted by the audience. The top notch actors/actresses performed a stellar epic event that remains part of our history. The combination supplied an unforgettable movie that gives clear and concise reenactments of the war.
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