He was the most famous wrier of his generation and she was determined not to be “a footnote to someone else’s life” which didn’t bode well for the merger of Ernest Hemingway and pioneer woman war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Their tumultuous relationship is brought to the screen in the compelling “Hemingway and Gellhorn” film directed by Philip Kaufman. I noticed this DVD at library checkout while I was picking up “A Stricken Field,” Gellhorn’s novelized account of covering the human tragedies in World War II Central Europe.
With Gellhorn, the macho Hemingway more than met his match. Nicole Kidman is outstanding as Martha and Clive Owen is memorable as the Hemingway who was boozing and fishing while the “misses” was covering the war for Collier’s magazine. (I previously read her Collier’s articles.) Hemingway dismissed Gellhorn as a “journalist” writing human interest stories. When Hemingway stole her Collier assignment to cover the Normandy Invasion, she found a way to scoop him on that story by going undercover as a nurse on a British hospital ship accompanying the troops. In a memorable scene, Joan Chen plays Madame Chiang Kai-shek at a dinner with the Hemingways with Gellhorn raising unpleasant references to Chinese poverty and hunger. While Hemingway feared being branded a communist sympathizer, Gellhorn confronted social justice issues head-on.
In the scenes involving the Spanish Civil War, John DosPesos, photographer Robert Capa and movie director Joris Ivens (“The Spanish Earth”) are featured. European war scenes are shown in grainy sepia tone or two color (Cinecolor) process. It worked for me, particularly when matched with Richard Attenborough’s “In Love and War,” which is the “Fairwell to Arms” story about Hemingway being rejected by the nurse Agnes who recounts the affair thusly: “The hurt boy became an angry man.” Now I need to find a decent DVD of “Farewell to Arms,” the original.