Thursday, May 01, 2014

"Hemingway & Gellhorn": epic biography from HBO of writers in wartime

Hemingway & Gellhorn” (2012, directed by Philip Kaufman) is an epic story of the relationship between hypermasculine writer Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) and war correspondent  (and later novelist herself) Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman). The film covers their combat exposure, as they wrote, during the Spanish Civil War, the early years of the War in the Pacific (when Japan invaded China), and later some of the Holocaust. 

The film portrays the role of propaganda in the early days of fascism in Spain.  Many early scenes are quite harrowing, with Gellhorn sticking cameras out of trenches to film the action. 

The film varies its shooting stock, between black and white, tints, and various color saturations, as it tells the entire story from Gellhorn’s perspective in modern times, after Hemingway’s death.  She says she will not be just a footnote to someone else’s life, however overwhelming that person’s accomplishments.

The film often shows them typing, even in war zones, and talks a lot about what a writer “is”.  The film is long (138 minutes) but gripping. 

There are some intimate, rather explicit scenes.  In one instance, Martha plays with his knee and admires the scars from war-related wounds, an idea that seemed challenging, to me at least.

There's a scene where they meet a stray cat.  Pretty soon, they have an abundance of cats in their home, always sharing attention.
The film mentions several of Hemingway’s most important books: “A Farewell to Arms” (a film in 1932, by Frank Borzaga, which I have rented), “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (film in 1943), and it shows Hemingway’s filming of the obscure documentary “The Spanish Earth” (1937).

The official site for “Hemingway and Gellhorn” is here

There was one scene that looked like Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain, which I visited in 2001. 
I watched the DVD from Netflix, but it can be rented on YouTube for $12.99 (sounds expensive).  

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of San Sebastian. 

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