New Line // 1997 // 113 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Margo Reasner (Retired) // October 1st, 1999
In war they found each other...In each other they found love...
Ernest Hemingway's World War I romance is told in a slowly paced cinematographically beautiful movie. A thumbs up for those who like slow, character driven romances or who are students of Hemingway's work.
An eighteen-year-old Hemingway goes to Italy during the war as a volunteer looking for adventure. Twenty Six year old Agnes von Kurowsky goes to Italy to get away from her past and to nurse the injured. They meet after Hemingway is shot in the leg while trying to save a wounded soldier from the battlefield. His leg develops gangrene and Agnes works with the doctor to try to save it for him. As time goes by Hemingway falls in love with Agnes and she must decide if a romance with him is something she's willing to participate in. She worries about their age difference and she is also being courted by one of the doctors that she works with.
The movie is based upon Agnes von Kurowsky's diaries (from Villard's book, "Hemingway in Love and War: The Lost Diary of Agnes von Kurowsky") and this period of Hemingway's life inspired his masterpiece "A Farewell to Arms." I'm not a student of Hemingway's life so I can't tell if it's entirely factual or not, but if you like true stories it really is interesting
nonetheless. The pace of the film is very slow, but the cinematography is quite beautiful. It was filmed in a couple of cities in Italy (as well as in Canada) and there are many wonderful old buildings and country scenes used as locations. Sandra Bullock (Practical Magic, Forces of Nature, Speed) plays Agnes and Chris O'Donnell (Batman Forever, The Bachelor) plays young Hemingway. These parts are different for both of them, but they pulled it off quite well and seemed to have the proper amount of chemistry together.
The movie is presented in both full screen and widescreen 2:35 aspect ratio enhanced for widescreen TVs. I only noticed a couple of very small specks while viewing and otherwise the transfer was good. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and there is a very nice separation of sound with use of the back speakers. I will caution, however, that the war scenes are not such that you hear every gunshot or explosion as though it was in the room. The sounds were there, but blended together. This tended to make the war scenes less frightening and made Hemingway's actions therefore more believable. The extras include the original theatrical trailer and Cast and Crew Biographies and Filmographies. I found the information on the Director (Richard Attenborough) to be engaging and worth a read.
The only drawback to this movie is that it goes very slowly along and might lose some viewers looking for more action. Most of the movie takes place in the hospital ward with Hemingway recovering. His interactions with Agnes and the other patients are the only thing that we see. Those that enjoy dialogue driven character development will not see this as a drawback however. In addition, there could have been more extras on the disc -- I would have really liked to have seen some biographical information on Hemingway; including a list of his novels and stories.
Although this was a very slow paced movie, it is worth viewing for Hemingway fans as well as those who enjoy true stories or believable love stories.
New Line is acquitted...It's nice to see some care going into the making of DVDs that are only going to attract limited audiences.
Review content copyright © 1999 Margo Reasner; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer
* Cast and Crew Bios