Posted: 09/21/2011

 

Gettysburg

(2011)

by Amber Burnham



Now available in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from A&E Networks Home Entertainment.


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Gettysburg is a documentary from Executive Producers Tony Scott and Ridley Scott, originally aired on History as a part of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Gettysburg. The documentary takes a look at the most famous and devastating battle in the Civil War through the eyes of people who participated. The story is told through vignettes from the lives of real people from both sides, who lived and died in the battle. Through the eyes of these real people, the battle and resulting carnage is brought into a realm that the viewer can understand. The viewer can find someone in which they are able to identify. Whether it is the doctor who finds his nephew among the countless dead or a father of three kiss his children’s’ pictures as he is lies nameless and dying on the battle field. There is also the woman who risks her life to take wounded soldiers into her home and nurse them and countless other examples of people from all walks of life contributing to the battle that changed the course of the war.

The battle of Gettysburg began as the Confederate soldiers, led by General Robert E. Lee, marched north to bring the fighting to the Northern Army of the Potomac. The Northern army intercepted Lee’s force in a small farming town in Pennsylvania, Gettysburg. Fighting soon broke out in the town and surrounding countryside. The battle lasted three days seeing the lives of 50,000 men ended. Gettysburg takes you through the whole three days chronicling the events both during and between the skirmishes.

Gettysburg
has many features common to documentaries; reenactments, computer animation and graphics, interviews with knowledgeable historians, narration, and the use of letters and documents written during the war. I have always enjoyed the level of quality that goes into History documentaries and their reenactments but in Gettysburg, this is taken to a new level. They are brutal, ugly, realistic, and action packed. Within minutes of watching the documentary you will find yourself gasping as soaring bullets hit splintering flesh and people fly through the air as a result of cannon bombardments. The effect of these reenactments goes one step further due to the fact that you are aware that this is not a movie but a depiction of a battle that real people fought and died in. The emotions felt because of this knowledge can be just as brutal as the effects being used in the reenactments.

These overpowering images are set against narration, done by Sam Rockwell (Moon, Cowboys & Aliens), which is muted and sobering. He reads the information with a soft yet emotional voice, giving the people the respect they deserve for the sacrifice and triumph they performed during the battles, no matter the side they were fighting on. The contrast between the visuals, actor’s readings, and narration creates a beautiful and terrifying look at the battle of Gettysburg.

Amber Burnham has a BA in Early Childhood Education from Kendall College. She is also a regular panelist on Kichicast, the all-girl, Chicago-based podcast devoted to anime, manga, and Japanese culture. You can listen to Kichicast at kichigi.com.



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