Hemingway and Gellhorn

 

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Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman and Academy Award nominee Clive Owen star in this 2010 movie that also includes a strong supporting cast of David Strathaim (Oscar nominee), Tony Shalhoub (Emmy Award winner), Parker Posey, Molly Parker and even Joan Chen.

This movie recounts one of the greatest romances of the last century. It was pure chance that Martha Gellhorn (Kidman), the beautiful, trailblazing war correspondant met Ernest Hemmingway (Owen), great literary master of works such as Farewell To Arms, met at a pub called Sloppy Joe’s. Her first impression was that he was a large, dirty man in disgustingly soiled clothes and he thought she was the epitome of elegance and sophistication. This chance meeting developed into a passionate love affair. Their marriage was tumultuous  through the Spanish Civil War, Dachau, Auschwitz, conflicts in Burma, Singapore, the Middle East, Central America, Vietnam, Bosnia, Africa and so on. They covered all the horrors and horrendous experiences but they couldn’t survive the war between themselves. They divorced (partly because he cheated on her), and Hemmingway eventually put a rifle to his chin and pulled the trigger. He tortured no one so much as he tortured himself. His last letter to Gellhorn began: I know you must know: love is infinitely more desirable than hate…

One of the things I liked most about the movie was how actual footage of war (such as the horror the Fascists inflict on the people, the demonstrations of Russian forces, the Abrahan Lincoln Brigade, scenes of Japanese bombing, Dachau and Auschwitz and so on) are juxtaposed into the story. I would think the visual effects would have been even more impressive if I had watched this at a cinema.

I also liked that despite its serious subject, there were more than a dozen lovely traditional songs, many in Spanish. One of these was performed a capella by Kidman and Owen, and another (Red River Valley) by a young man on the train (also at a war scene, at the moment when Gellhorn realised she had fallen in love with the then-married Hemmingway). I also enjoyed the Tropicana dancers and the flamenco guitar performances. My only curiosity was whether body doubles were used for Kidman and Owen in those passionate love scenes. I was also quite shocked that such scenes were not censored in a DVD available at a public library.

 

 

 

 

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