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Snow Falling on Cedars

4 out of 5 stars 208 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Ethan Hawke stars in this "riveting tale of mystery" (FOX-TV) based on the award-winning best-selling novel. A murder trial has upset the quiet community of San Piedro, and now this tranquil village has become the center of controversy. For Ishamael Chambers (Hawke), a local reporter, the trial strikes a deep emotional chord when he finds his ex-lover is linked to the case. As he investigates the killing, he uncovers some startling clues that lead him to a shocking discovery. Co-starring James Cromwell, Sam Shepard and Max Von Sydow, Snow Falling on Cedars is "hypnotic, mesmerizing and inspiring" (ABC-TV).


Australian director Scott Hicks's follow-up to his widely beloved Shine comes as a small shock. Based on David Guterson's bestselling novel, Snow Falling on Cedars is far removed from the character-driven, pure storytelling of Shine and a comparative plunge into moody atmospherics. Action insinuates itself through the director's determined eye for watercolor composition and free-floating perspective, like random shoots of new growth in an overwhelming rain forest. It's impossible to be complacent as a viewer because Hicks's meditative style paradoxically forces one to locate and make the story happen internally.

The approach makes good aesthetic sense in that Guterson's story couches courtroom drama in dreamy textures, and Hicks is determined to reflect that even if it means turning an audience's idea of narrative on its head. He also gets a lot of help from the weather in the Pacific Northwest: the setting is one of Washington State's San Juan Islands, where rain embraces earth and sky in a singular, introverted personality. There, a Japanese American war hero (Rick Yune) stands accused of murdering a white fisherman in the years following World War II. His wife (Youki Kudoh) is the former childhood sweetheart and lover of a local newspaperman (Ethan Hawke) whose bitterness over the loss--as well as his helplessness during the internment of Japanese Americans, and the crusading legacy of his journalist father (Sam Shepard)--prevents him from coming to the defense of the accused man.

Layered emotions, layered sensations, layered clouds. This is historical fiction of a sort that works best as an experience of time's relativity: flowing, stopping, trickling. Ironically, the film's most commercial element, the trial, is the least interesting aspect, though old pro Max Von Sydow makes those scenes great fun as a wily defense counsel. --Tom Keogh

Special Features

  • Spotlight on Location
  • Feature Commentary with Director Scott Hicks
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Manzanar
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Production Notes
  • Cast and Filmmakers
  • Universal Showcase
  • Recommendations

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Ethan Hawke, James Cromwell, Richard Jenkins, James Rebhorn, Sam Shepard
    • Directors: Scott Hicks
    • Writers: Scott Hicks, Ron Bass
    • Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Harry J. Ufland, Ron Bass
    • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Dolby
    • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
    • Subtitles: English
    • Dubbed: French
    • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
    • Studio: Universal Studios
    • DVD Release Date: May 30, 2000
    • Run Time: 128 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: 0783240325
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,549 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Snow Falling on Cedars" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: VHS Tape
    As a reader of the excellent book by author David Guterson, I didn't quite know what to expect from a movie version. A book of this caliber and structure is not a book easily made into a movie. But through the collective efforts of the director Scott Hicks and great acting on the parts of Ethan Hawke, Max von-Sydow, and James Cromwell, the majestic beauty of the book comes alive on the silver screen. The only visible problem with the film would be the fact that some people simply won't get it. There are people who just enjoy watching a movie to be entertained, not to have to follow tough plot lines. These are the people that need to avoid a film such as Snow Falling on Cedars. The various plot lines and sub-plot lines revolve around the death of a fisherman, Carl Heine and the ensuing trial of the Japanese man, Kazuo Miyamoto, accused of killing him. The movie takes place during the trial, but flashbacks are heavily used during the testimony of the victim's mother, Etta Heine, as with all the other witnesses. Throughout the movie a different plot line emerges, one of more power and one of love. The plot line revolves around a local reporter named Ishmael Chambers and of his love for the accused man's wife, plus his inescable feelings of loss and regret. Circumstances tore them apart leaving Ishamel to wonder about what might have been. A beautiful story, but one that should only be watched by people that can appreciate the intricacy of the plot.
    Comment 52 of 53 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: VHS Tape
    I can attest to the adage that the first person one falls in love with is forever, regardless of whether that person gets married to someone else or not. Well, in Snow Falling On Cedars, that sort of past comes back to haunt young reporter Ishmael Chambers when he discovers the husband of his first love Hatsue is being tried for the murder of fisherman/husband/father Carl Heine. The case for the prosecution is that Kazuo, Hatsue's husband, murdered Carl with a flat wooden object, such as a kendo stick (wooden swords used in stick fighting), and all because of the loss of seven acres of land owned by Kazuo's father when Kazuo's family was interned during WW2. Kazuo had demanded the return of the land, but because of two payments missed, his family forfeited the land, which came into Carl's possession. He is defended by an elderly lawyer, Nels Gudmundsson (veteran Swedish actor Max von Sydow in a strong performance), who as a Scandinavian, detects the race issue here. Pearl Harbor has not been forgotten, in other words. All the while, Ishmael sits high up on the balcony of the trial room, observing the defendant and his wife. He is clearly still bitter about the past, as he might have ended up with Hatsue had not circumstances dictated otherwise. This bitterness is manifested when he sits on some information key to Kazuo's defense.
    Set in the fishing village of San Piedro, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, the film shuttles back and forth between the present, in the 1950's, and the past, in the late 30's to 40's. The film shows Ishmael falling in love with Hatsue Imada, a Japanese girl, and both their mothers disapproving of interracial relationships.
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    Comment 36 of 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD
    I enjoyed this movie much more than the novel upon which it was based. This is very unusual for me as it is usually the reverse situation. What I liked best is epitomized on the cover of the box. It shows the heroine as a child and the hero as an adult, even though, in the film, they are at all times the same age. The film, however, shifts atmospherically from their shared life together as children, adolescents and lovers to their lives as full adults. The hero is having a harder time letting go of that shared time together than she is. As adults of around thirty, they are as apart as they once were together. Her same-race (Japanese American) husband is on trial in their town for murdering a local fisherman.

    The hero is bitterly alone and has taken over his late father's newspaper. That he lost his arm fighting in World War II is part of his bitterness. The trial is the weakest part of the film and I could have done with much less of it. The rest of the film is so beautifully brought to the screen that it is annoying when the "typical" trial scenes play. Normally I love Max Van Sydow, the trial lawyer, but I could have even dispensed with him. Gorgeous cinematography enhances this film greatly. Ethan Hawke, who plays the hero, seems to be choosing his roles very carefully. After this film, he went on to star in "Hamlet 2000", where he was spectacular.

    Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
    Comment 21 of 22 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD
    After the emotional wounds inherited from the WW2, there's a painful fact. A dead man emerges from the sea and rescued by two fishermen. The initial investigation will be the sparkling nerve of this mature story, in which a warmth love story will fade due a crucial decision: imposing wills with racism backstage dictating behavior codes; a sad story about two farmers who will negotiate seven acres of a productive land will converge by those random aggressions in a trial.

    The confrontation goes far beyond a simple scheme of guilty or not guilty: the unobstructed passions will rule the scene till ...

    Ethan Hawk makes an impressive role, his best achievement to date, with brilliant supporting characters such max Von Sydow as the defense attorney and James Cromwell as the Judge. The rest of the cast is splendid too; the dialogues are polished and concise; there is not excess of any sort.

    The travellings in the forest are top notch ( you may realize a slender but visibly warmth homage to Kurosawa's Rashomon ) and the flash backs are simply sumptuous. This brilliant work once more is supported by a Judgment as dramatic device, follows the traces of exceptional previous films such Anatomy of a murder, Judgment at Nuremberg, To kill a mockingbird or Paths of Glory.

    This is a genuine artwork. The handle of camera is ravishing as well as the lighting, edition and cinematography

    There was an antecedent in a almost forgotten film of the middle fifties: John Sturguess' Bad day at Black Rock , dealing with the Anti Japanese phobia in an isolated town in the map. Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan were in top form with this picture.

    Scott Hicks made an admirable movie
    Comment 12 of 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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