Megan Hofmann’s review of “In Love and War”

The film In Love and War (1996), directed by Richard Attenborough, depicts the vibrant, early life of Ernest Hemingway and his military service in Northern Italy during World War I. The film takes place in the year 1918, with most of the film revolving around a war hospital where an injured young Hemingway becomes enthralled by a beautiful Red Cross nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, who is seven years older than the “kid.” Familiar faces are part of the film’s cast, such as Sandra Bullock as Agnes and Chris O’Donnell who plays the part of Hemingway.

In Love and War does not necessarily showcase magnificent film work that modern war movies commonly display. As stated previously, many of the film’s scenes center around Ernest Hemingway recovering from a war injury at a hospital several miles away from the immediate war zone. There are only a handful of scenes pertaining to the frontline, with one of them being a brief display of a frontline trench and the other a field camp. The trench scene in particular does not imply extreme accuracy, at least in comparison to the miserable images of mud, muck, and filth displayed on the class blog. Throughout the trench scene, Hemingway romanticizes being a frontline infantryman by borrowing an Italian soldier’s gun to “pretend fire” at the enemy, and I feel as though his romanticism reflects Attenborough’s depiction of the trench as well. The most interesting scenic variety the film conveys revolves around the stunning Italian countryside and cityscape, however, the filming location alone makes these scenes beautiful, not necessarily the mastery of the filming itself.

In the same manner Hemingway’s, A Farwell to Arms is not a typical war book, (meaning much of the book revolves around a love story rather than the war itself), In Love and War is not amainstream wartime film either. As the title suggests, the film’s plot focuses much more intensely on the love affair of Agnes von Kurowsky and Hemingway rather than the historical significance of the first World War. In addition, oftentimes in my experience amongst scholars, Hemingway is not spoken of with the highest esteem regarding his personal life, however, the majority of this film depicts Hemingway as a young, vivacious man who finds the living experience to be exciting and full of potential. Although most of the film concentrates on the love story between the two main characters, the storyline itself gives a thought-provoking glimpse into Hemingway’s life and presents an interesting biographical account of Hemingway before the personal struggles he is famously known for present themselves in his life’s narrative.

Overall, I would not say that In Love and War will go down in history as one of the most influential World War I films I have watched. Nonetheless, I still find the storyline to be intriguing, especially because I viewed the film directly after finishing Hemingway’s A Farwell to Arms, a story that has remarkable similarities with the film. Ernest Hemingway’s life was undoubtfully troublesome. However, I do believe this film’s depiction of Hemingway does a wonderful job of portraying the fact that sometimes life narratives simply cannot be wrapped up neatly and presented with a pretty bow. Life experiences can be tragic. As seen with Hemingway, experiencing personal tragedy early in life can alter the course of one’s existence, and this film engages in the unfortunate job of helping to explain the reasoning behind Hemingway’s personal struggles.

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