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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.Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
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Producer David O. Selznick tries to imitate the opening credits of his classic film, "Gone With The Wind", by having the letters of the title "A Farewell to Arms" sweep slowly across the screen from right to left. See more »
Of the top 6 reviews I currently see here, 3 are slamming Jennifer Jones for being too old, 1 is slamming producer David Selznick for being in the decline of his career, 1 is whining that it's not like the book, and 1 is slamming writer Hemingway for not doing any fighting in the war (Um... he was an ambulance driver).
While this film may not deserve an Academy award for best picture, it certainly deserves a decent review on IMDb dedicated to the film itself. So here goes my attempt.
"A Farewell to Arms" is a lavish production of a love story set against the backdrop of World War I. In that respect it's in the same genre as other classic war romances "Gone with the Wind", "Casablanca" and "Platoon ". Haha just checking to see if you're paying attention. Everyone knows "Casablanca" was not set in a war but an occupation.
Where "Farewell" differs from these other classics is in the distribution of war & romance. "Farewell" features far more battle scenes (4) compared to "Gone with the Wind" (zero) and "Casablanca" (zero). The result may be a bit disappointing in the romance department, and several reviewers (as well as the New York Times review on the film's release) have complained about the "lack of chemistry" between the two leads. I think this perception is simply due to the fact that less time is spent setting up the romance, putting more of a burden on the viewer to accept a relationship that simply happens. Viewers may also feel romantically cheated because this is not a traditional romance between two traditional individuals who dream of immediately getting married and having kids and a dog. But in fact this purposely informal, slightly dysfunctional romance is what ultimately made it interesting to me because it marked a change of formula in the age-old Hollywood romance.
If you see this movie, pay close attention to Jennifer Jones' excellent portrayal of a reluctant lover who is perhaps suffering from too many demons to actually fall in love completely, the way she wants to. She is riddled with insecurities, conflicts and possibly guilt, making her like the the stereotypical guy who can't commit. Meanwhile Rock Hudson plays a character more like the stereotypical lovesick schoolgirl. If you enjoy stereotype reversals like this, you'll definitely find yourself interested in their "lack of chemistry".
Was Jennifer Jones too old (late 30s) to play the role of Katherine as Hemingway had intended her (early 20s)? Probably. Did Jennifer get the part because she was married to producer Selznick? Absolutely. Does any of this make her a bad actress? No way. Short of Vivien Leigh, I think she was the best person to play the role as she did: the troubled lover whose cynical, morbid thoughts were always brewing not far away, despite her outwardly cheerful appearance. Actually I take back the thing about Vivien Leigh being better; the more I think about it, Jennifer was ideal for this sort of character.
A subplot involving Vittorio de Sica's war-weary character descending into madness is sure to catch your attention. It was actually my favorite part of the movie, and I wish they had spent more time on this complex character shift as well as his interesting polite antagonism of the church (with a spectacular short speech he says to the priest near the end). But alas, with the romance and the battle scenes already vying for screen time, Vittorio's story only got 2 or 3 dedicated scenes. They were powerful nonetheless.
Yes, as others mentioned, the ending seemed abrupt. But after thinking about it, I think it was perfectly in line with some of the interesting & unusual themes that the story set up. In short, this is not a straightforward soldier-meets-girl love story. The conflicts that are presented (particularly in Jennifer Jones' mysteriously troubled psyche) make this romance much more than meets the eye. If you enjoy wartime romances that are not always formulaic love stories (i.e. they may contain hidden dysfunctional surprises), check this one out.
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