The Red Badge of Courage
Synopsis of Book:
The novel centers around a young Union soldier during the Civil War. His name is Henry Flemming, and he is struggling very deeply with finding the courage to fight in battles. During his first battle Henry is more or less pushed into it because he is surrounded by his fellow soldiers, even though he doesn’t want to fight. The union wins and he takes a nap, only to be awaken by a surprise attack from the confederates. In fear, Henry runs away into the woods, and soon becomes ashamed of his cowardice, but justifies it by saving his own life. He joins a band of wounded soldiers marching and pretends he is also wounded. He meets a man named Jim Conklin, who he swears to help protect, but Jim soon dies from his own injuries. Henry then goes to watch another battle from a distance, but he is hit very badly in the head and another solider helps him back to his regiment’s camp. His good friend Wilson, thinking Henry is injured much worse than he really is, takes care of him through the night. The next morning, filled with rage against the enemy after watching Jim Conklin die, Henry fights more fiercely than anyone on the battlefield. But, after his regiment’s charge fails the commanding officer insults all of them for their failure, but this only motivates Henry more. More fighting continues, and Henry carries the flag, waving it very proudly and fighting bravely. Henry has now put his guilt behind him, and he looks forward to living the rest of his life, as he found the courage that he had been searching for the whole time.
Obviously, one of the main themes of the novel is courage. Henry spends the entire novel searching for the courage to fight in battles, and is constantly shaming himself for his lack of courage. His measure of courage has more to do with how his peers view him, than how he feels about it himself. By the end of the novel the courage centers less on other people’s views of courage, but more about one’s personal reputation.
Another recurring theme in the novel is that of manhood. At the beginning, Henry relies ion very clichéd notions of what manhood really means to define how he carries himself as a soldier. He is convinced, after going through more battles that in the eyes of other men, just by being involved in all this conflict that he will become a hero in the eyes of men. He soon realizes that his earlier conceptions of manhood were childish, and adolescent.
Two Key Scenes:
The first scene which I believe is key to a movie rendition is the first time that Henry runs away from the battlefield after being awaken from his nap by a surprise attack. The book describes how he runs into a glade and sees a general on horseback yelling and encouraging his men and how Henry felt very bad but continue to retreat for his own safety. I believe this scene could be done in slow motion and give the actor tunnel vision and have dirt and debris flying everywhere in order to demonstrate how afraid Henry really was.
The second scene which I believe is key to the story is the scene in the final battle when Henry has finally found his courage to fight and runs waving his regiments flag. I believe this scene is very important because Henry has now transitioned into a fearless leader rather than a frightened follower. I believe this scene could be constructed parallel to the other scene, with the slow motion and detail of dirt and guns being fired and men being shot, etc. but it would show how Henry was fighting fiercely and not retreating.
This Stephen Crane version honestly is the only one that should be shown. The character, Henry Fleming, was played very well by Audie Murphy's alter. The individual portrayals of the Union soldier's excellent as well. The battlefield scene that truly captured the essence of this movie was when Henry held the tattered Confederate flag over the body of the dead rebel soldier. It was very moving in the scene as one soldier salutes his enemy, who, in reality was his countryman. I feel this movie, as abbreviated as it was, since the director had over one hour of the original version cut, is still a masterpiece.
Rather than placing the scenes in an open field, I would want most of the scenes to be in the woods where there are lots of trees and fog and strange noises. I believe this will give the battle field fighting scenes less of a cheesy feel because I believe that the darkness of the woods will give off a much more threatening feel to the battles. I want to focus the movie almost completely on the character of Henry. I really want this story to be about him and his personal struggle. I would include a lot of flashbacks to his earlier life and bring him out of the flash backs very quickly and throw him back into the dangerous battle scenes. The only other main character I plan to have is Jim Conklin, because he served as Henry’s source of motivation and courage in the end of the novel. I would include a ton of special effects and a fair amount of blood and gore, in order to demonstrate how gruesome and frightening this old style of warfare was. I will also include a lot of slow motion scenes with very little noise but sad music to show how Henry would get tunnel vision and freak out in the heat of these battles. Other than these minor changes I plan to keep the story line very close to the novel, and plan to include as many flashbacks and minor scenes as I can that the novel has in them. I believe the true essence of what the story tries to capture is found in the novel and I would like to remain as true to the novel as possible in order to give as much credit as I can to Stephen Crane and his genius literary work.
The costumes that I would choose to use would obviously be Civil War era accurate uniforms. The costumes would be accurate for both the Union and Confederate soldiers. Since this story only really takes place on the battlefields, there will not really be any extra costumes needed as there will be little to no change in the setting.
Henry Flemming is the novel’s protagonist; he is a young union solider during the civil War. Henry starts out lacking the courage to fight in battles, but as the novel progresses, Henry soon starts to learn what courage really means, and eventually gains some. He struggles throughout the story with vain notions of himself and what it means to have courage. He eventually progresses from a scared, reluctant soldier, to a fearless fighter and helps lead his regiment to a victory.
My first choice actor for the role of Henry would be Tom Cruise. Mainly because he is awesome. In addition, because I believe he looks relatively young and he is also very small. These physical attributes, I believe, would provide a more accurate representation of how Henry was meant to appear. The most important scene would be the two slow motion scenes in which he is fighting or running away. My second choice actor would be Matt Damon. I would take him behind Tom Cruise mainly because of his physical appearance; he doesn’t look as young as Tom cruise and he’s a lot bigger, I want to portray Henry as more of a young, meek boy.
For music the movie will include a lot of violin, orchestra type music. During the slow motion scenes I will include very slow, and soft music. During the battle scenes it would be much more upbeat intense with lots of drums and cymbals and bass notes. I would also like to include one modern day rock and roll song. I don’t know exactly what song but I believe that it would add to the work and it would be interesting paired with the historical setting. Quentin Tarantino does this very well during a scene in his movie “Django” and I will definitely use this as inspiration.
The clip below is the scene I am referring to in "Django"
Below are some ideas for what the music would sound like
Regardless of the era or relevance, every good war movie needs this song, it will also be included. Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix