“Along the way,” Director Ron Maxwell continued, “the question is, what about the good, honorable, ethical men who chose not to go to war, and in fact, the very same war? This is one of the very few novels that raises that question about the Civil War.”
If Bill Kauffman sat down to write a screenplay, the result would surely be the movie “Copperhead.”
The ideal Kauffman film would take a look at a side of history that is little known and rarely discussed. The lead character would be a dissenter, the holder of unpopular opinions who won’t bow to conformity. The major themes would be love of family, community before nation, and fealty to the Constitution. It would show how war rips asunder these values as brutally as it maims bodies and damages souls.
This is, indeed, the movie “Copperhead,” based on the 1893 novel, “The Copperhead,” by Utica-born Harold Frederic. The screenplay is by Batavia’s (and Elba’s) own Bill Kauffman.
A packed house at Genesee Community College’s Stuart Steiner Theater of Kauffman partisans — friends and family, mostly — viewed a special screening Thursday night of “Copperhead.” We applauded when Kauffman’s first film credit rolled across the screen and clapped again for his daughter, Gretel, whose credit was for one of the two “giggling girls” at a barn dance.
We also all applauded in appreciation as the final scene faded to black and credits for all the grips and technicians and wardrobe staff rolled across the screen.
It is a very good movie.
The story line — without trying to give away too much — is about a small Upstate New York farm community in 1862. The town is largely Republican with a view of the war in line with the Lincoln Administration.
Abner Beech opposes the war. He’s a Democrat. He’s no “slaver” he says, but he considers Lincoln’s war unlawful.