The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns
DVD | Box Set
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(Sep 28, 2004)
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Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling, Ken Burns's epic documentary brings to life America's most destructive-- and defining--conflict. With digitally enhanced images and new stereo sound, here is the saga of celebrated generals and ordinary soldiers, a heroic and transcendent president and a country that had to divide itself in two in order to become one.
The most successful public-television miniseries in American history, the 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. --Dave McCoy
On the DVD
The DVD features on The Civil War provide a wealth of insight, creative philosophy, historical perspective, and educational enjoyment. Twelve years after its premiere broadcast, the film was given a digital facelift, sharpening image clarity, correcting color, and enriching its soundtrack with a remastered 5.1-channel mix, as demonstrated in the "Civil War Reconstruction" featurette. In interviews from 2002, producer-director Ken Burns, historian Shelby Foote, journalist George Will, author Stanley Crouch, and composer-musicians Jay Ungar and Molly Mason reflect upon The Civil War's enduring significance. And Burns's eloquent commentary--selectively included on each disc and totaling five hours--illuminates the historical importance and creative impulse behind crucial chapters of the film. Fifty-seven onscreen biography cards detail important North, South, and civilian figures, and two 1990 featurettes"Making History" and "A Conversation with Ken Burns"--provide a more personal perspective on the creation of this extraordinary film. Useful for both personal and academic study, these features stand as a fitting supplement to one of the greatest documentaries ever produced. --Jeff Shannon
Behind the Scenes: The Civil War Reconstruction
Commentary by Ken Burns
Interviews with Ken Burns, Shelby Foote, George Will and Stanley Crouch
Civil War Challenge
Featurettes: Ken Burns: Making History and A Conversation with Ken Burns
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Top customer reviews
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This one on the Civil War is no different than his others.
It is well organized in a cohesive manner and yet it is organized differently than you might anticipate. That means you don't watch one hour on the North, one hour on the South, one hour on this battle or that leader. Instead it stars with the cause and proceeds through the Civil War following the timeline of the War.
One of the things I like about Ken Burns documentaries is that he shows lots of pictures and reads a lot of first hand accounts in different voices. This is no different. You might hear a quote from a letter someone wrote to her husband and see a picture of a lady (or several different pictures) while that quote is being read. He also uses music from that time to highlight his show. All of this adds to the feel of the show and really helps you to understand and put a face to the War.
Additionally, he has a good mix of people speaking, pictures, maps etc. You will hear from experts and see actual tools used during the battles and listen to quotes from famous and not so famous people of that time.
Ken Burns has a good grasp on the importance of this period in our nation. He is able to share that knowledge with us through this show.
Well worth watching.
Ken Burns really nailed this one.
And the music, especially the "Ashokan Farewell" is guaranteed to pull at your heart strings ever time you hear it and it will haunt you for the rest of your life... By the way it is from Jay Ungar and he wrote it in the 1980's it is not a contemporary song the the war but it so captures the essence of the time it could have been and most propel think it is.
If you watch one documentary in your life... Let it be this one.