Hemingway, Gellhorn, Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman

Hemingway and Gellhorn

History has its way of selecting the times, the moments when its tectonic plates grind against each other and pulverize every thing in their way.

Such was the twentieth century, the bloodiest and most brutal hundred years thus far for the human race.

Across that vast stage crawled and strutted and limped a collection of frail souls who dared to try to capture the zeitgeist on scraps of paper.

Hemingway and Gellhorn, an HBO production, stars Clive Owen as Ernest Hemingway and Nicole Kidman as Martha Gellhorn, a war correspondent who became Hemingway’s lover and later his wife and later his ex-wife.

The true star of this fascinating film, however, is the world at war. Everything else is a footnote.

I came to the movie as a fan of Hemingway’s writing, but as one ignorant of the relationship between the two main characters.  I haven’t done any research into the historical accuracy of the film, although it has a documentary feel to it in many scenes.

The film portrays Hemingway as what we in East Texas would call a straight-running asshole, ninety-nine percent testosterone, one percent scribe.

For Hem, it was all about the battle. For Gellhorn, it was all about the casualties.

Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman
Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman

For Hem, war was the grand grist for novels.  For Gellhorn, it was the living and breathing and dying of real people caught up in forces beyond their control.

John Dos Passos fans will also find in the movie a treatment of the relationship between him and Hemingway, a give and take that expresses the complexity of the factors that bind people together and drive them apart.

I also loved Robert Duvall’s portrayal of a Russian general during the Spanish Civil War.

Hemingway and Gellhorn is a writers’ movie, as it should be. Of course there are the obligatory scenes where Hemingway spouts some of his famous aphorisms about writing, others where he stands and types, removes the onion skin paper and lets the sheets drift to the trashcan.

But, as I said, history is the main character.  And it will not be denied, despite any protestations.

I highly recommend the movie.  It runs two and a half hours, so set aside a block of time and journey to times and places humankind will never forget.



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