The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns
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If the words themselves have power, so do the voices. Burns recruited great voices, some actors, some not, to speak the words, distinctive voices that give great resonance to what we see. Julie Harris as Mary Chestnut, Charlie McDowell, a Virginia reporter, as Sam Watkins, Arthur Miller as William Sherman, Jason Robards as Grant, Studs Terkel as Benjamin Butler, Sam Waterston as Lincoln, and many others. He has David McCullough as the narrator. McCullough, an outstanding historian and writer, does a wonderful job. Burns also uses a number of historians to underline key points. Foremost, in my view, is Shelby Foote. Foote is the author of the epic three-volume Civil War. With his Southern accent, common sense and soft irony, he's a fascinating raconteur.
The program is never dry or dull. It is gripping and emotional. Both sides felt they were fighting for a pure cause.Read more ›
Burns used well-known actors to read the diaries and writings of both famous people (Grant, Lee, Lincoln) and average persons and soldiers. It gives one a well-rounded view of both sides. I am in awe of the writings of that time--the people had an incredibly, descriptive way of writing; a command of the English language that has sadly been lost in modern times.
Burns also used still photographs, panning across them, giving the audience the feel of watching an actual movie of the time. That technique has since been adopted by other documentaries.
I've seen the series many times, and each time find something more. If nothing else, see it for Shelby Foot--a writer/historian who speaks about Robert E. Lee, and others, like he personally knew them. Fascinating from beginning to end!
The series is finally released on DVD. While the price is a little high the amazing quality of the series makes the cost very reasonable. Ken Burns' Civil War is required for any Civil War historian's collection. The series is also a great way for those wishing to learn more about the Civil War. I would recommend this to anyone that loves historical documentaries. It does not get any better than The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns.
The story of the war is told through pictures, narratives, and the unobtrusive narration by David McCoulough, who's voice is pitch pefect for the job. Never before have photos had such a dramatic effect in telling a story. They say a picture says a thousand words, and this series prove that maxim correct. The five discs cover the 5 years of the war, and the 9 parts of teh series. The most effective are "1861: The Cause", "1863: The Universe of Battle", and "1865: The Better Angels of our Nature". They cover the events that led up to the war, the turining points at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and the end and aftermath of the war. Each is suprememly emotional. One episode intersperses an old narrative from the daughter of a former slave as she remembers her father's stories. Shelby Foote, author of the most comprehensive book on the war, offers invaluable advice. High praise must also go to Sam Waterston, who voices Abraham Lincoln. In the final segment of the 1863 disc, Waterston recites the Gettysburg Address, and I must admit it brought me to tears.
The music is also a key factor to the success of the film. Burns went back and found the old music that was popular among the people and the soldiers, both North & South during the war. It is moving, from the haunting opening music, to the old spirituals that are found on disc 2's "1862: Forever Free".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The most thorough documentary of the horrible tragedy that was our Civil War out therePublished 1 day ago by Lane Moore
I have watched this series numerous times, and always come away with a deeper understanding of the complexities that define our history. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Bradley C. Bohrer
Marvelous! Everyone will learn a lot from the series documentary film.Published 2 days ago by Morning Star
What else can be said about this KB's and friends magnificent work? So wee-done in so many ways! Excellent.Published 2 days ago by Amazon Customer
As moving a documentary as I have ever seen. Ken Burns redefines the construct of documentary film. He sits alone at the top of this Genre. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Michael F. Guarino
This a wonderful series. Very telling and sad. A very important part of our history that we should not forgetPublished 2 days ago by Patricia Gilliland
As always, perfection. I could listen to Shelby Foote all day long. And then some. Simply captivating. Read morePublished 3 days ago by MMarler