This movie could have gone in a number of different directions because
of Hemingway's writing style. I read the book about a week before
watching the movie (niether by choice) so I had a pretty good idea of
where and how each was different. If you've read the novel, you can
understand how the director and actors would have had a hard time
getting the characters across since Hemingway provides practically no
emotion or description to his dialogue. He wanted to keep the meaning
behind his characters words ambiguous to make it interesting. However,
that leaves a few too many options when you're an actor and have to
choose one emotion to convey. I didn't like how it came off, but I'll
talk about that more later. The story doesn't transition from the book
to the movie well. It's not a bad subject matter, but the story is
famous for its symbolism rather more than anything else, and symbolism
expressed with words is extremely hard to translate into images.
Our two characters are a little hard to grasp since they were written in a way that reflected to aimlessness of the 1920's. Catherine in particular has a very romanticized perception of the war and her relationship with Frederic Henry. Frederic has an inverse view of things in which he carries a constant air of what is almost construable as apathy. Rock Hudson's sappier portrayal of him makes him seem like less of an unfeeling Bond-type and more of a star-crossed lover. There are very few other characters of significance. Rinaldi is probably the most prominent minor character, followed by the Milan nurses (Fergusson, and Van Campen), and the army priest. These parts feature the better acting performances of the movie. The scene where the priest remains in the burning hospital (which by the way was not in the book) was, in my opinion, the best scene of the movie. I don't know that Vittorio de Sica's portrayal of Rinaldi was Oscar worthy, but it was the most worthy of a nomination out of all the aspects of the film.
The story ends up being driven by a number of things. Among them are Frederic and Catherine's relationship, Frederic recovering from his injury, the general tide of the war, the impending birth of Frederic and Catherine's child, and Frederic's desire to seek solace from the war after deserting. The story as a whole just sort of exists. It doesn't feel terribly alive, but it's functional and doesn't have any logic issues or inconsistencies.
The acting from the lead roles felt pretty weak. They must be forgiven to an extent by Hemingway's ambiguous dialogue, but they certainly didn't give the best possible portrayals. When I was reading Catherine's rambling sentences in the book, I thought there might be some kind of coherence to it that would make it sound natural and hoped that an actress saying those same lines would provide that. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Jennifer Jones portrayal didn't have any more coherence than the static text and felt almost pathetically unrealistic. This even extended to her expressions like in the scene where Catherine is looking for Frederic among the advancing Italian force and she wears over exaggerated smiles and frowns. Rock Hudson's performance didn't really work for me because he seemed like he was trying to be too emotional while playing a character that has a hardened personality. Besides that, his emotions seemed kind of inconsistent and I didn't really buy that the character would have felt the way Hudson portrayed him to be. The supporting roles were all acted pretty well, though I don't think the talent was "wasted" on those parts since the supporting actors wouldn't have fit the lead roles.
The overall feel of the movie felt a bit too romantic and not quite dark enough. Now, since that statement is coming from an action fan, it will sound biased. However, Earnest Hemingway felt much the same way upon the film's release, and was disappointed that it didn't portray the horrors that he saw as an ambulance driver in WWI. I wouldn't be surprised if major he wrote the story was a means to warn people to avoid war at all costs since it was so awful for him.
If you've read and enjoyed the book, I guess it isn't a bad idea to watch this, but be warned that the tone changes drastically from book to movie. This is a much better pick as a romance movie than a war movie, though I doubt this will be at the top of your watchlist since it's kind of old. It stays pretty close to the book, which I know a lot of people can very particular about. To all prospective viewers, I'll say that it will likely come off as cheesy even if you love old movies or Earnest Hemingway's books. Overall Rating: 3.8/10.
A Farewell to Arms
Action / Drama / Romance / War
A Farewell to Arms
Action / Drama / Romance / War
Frederick Henry, an American serving as a volunteer ambulance driver with the Italian forces in the First World War, is wounded and falls in love with his attending nurse, the British Catherine Barkley. In the midst of war and some intrigue, the pair struggles to stay together and to survive the horrors around them.
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September 25, 2014 at 09:08 PM