I don’t know why I hadn’t heard about this 2012 made for TV movie till my daughter watched it during vacation and inferred I might appreciate it for its content and writing. Luckily, she taped it and over a span of a few interrupted hours I watched it with pen and legal pad in hand. That’s not how I usually sit down to enjoy a movie but after scribbling great lines taken directly from Hemingway onto my horoscope page from the National Enquirer, I decided to be a critic too and needed more space to write.
How could I not be attracted to this cinematic treasure written by Jerry Stahl and Barbara Turner? It is yet another story from yet another one of Hemmingway’s influential women. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is a novel based on his life with Hadley Richardson in the 1920’s; a must read whether you like this pompous egomaniac with an inferiority complex or not. They are both women’s life stories. The names have not been changed in either story and it was gratifying to connect the people and events in time; gaining an even clearer picture of this dominant figure in our literary society via the women who loved him but refused to perish into his destructive and abusive labyrinth of alcohol and arrogance which eventually led him to a depressive abyss straight down into suicide. In both works, intimate details are disclosed, especially about his psyche. The complexity of his relationships is imparted, his contagious social personality towards male and female, is expressed. The intriguing female in this snippet of time is a writer, a journalist, and a war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn. My daughter probably remembered how that was my initial career path I dared not and didn’t follow.
The movie spans the Spanish Civil War during the Franco era, Stalin, Japan invading China and WWII. Historically 1936 – 1946. Lots of nudity and impassioned, drunken sex scenes are shot between the protagonists – Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen. I was embarrassed to watch it even alone, but then, I am extremely prudish and modest. You may find it entertaining. I squirm.
Everything is solved, resolved or softened with a drink. Alcohol lubricates every moment of war, afterglow and dispute or celebration. Everyone smokes. Everyone parties pretty hard. It’s the days of Cuba used as a playground with an aversion to the reality of inhuman atrocity.
It is amazing how they used real film footage and super imposed present day actors onto the screen and made it seamless. Although, it was a little distracting, too.
Gellhorn’s words spill thoughtfully throughout the film as she narrates. When she stands on stage in front of an audience that has just viewed the film debut of “The Spanish Earth”, by John Dos Passos and Ernest, she gives an impromptu declaration that the movie was made in order to “give voice to the voiceless, bear witness to the innocent….”.
And what I thought were great lines from Hemmingway, the philosopher:
“War runs on rumors and lies.”
“You never really know what you are fighting for till you lose.”
“A man can be destroyed but not defeated, if he is still standing, he can fight.”
“Love is infinitely more durable than hate.”
About Gellhorn: “The woman loves humanity but hates to be around people.”
About writing: “The important thing for a writer is to tell a good story.”
“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit at your typewriter and bleed.”
“Get in the ring, see what you are made of. Start throwing punches for what you believe in.”
Reminding me of the three choices in life from day 73 of my posts… and choosing to commit; ultimately electing to live life with Courage!