For Reel

A Farewell to Arms (1932)
November 15, 2015, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Frank Borzage
3 Stars
A Farewell to ArmsErnest Hemingway famously detested this 1932 adaptation of his 1929 masterpiece. It is a film that takes liberties with the text not only in changing certain narrative elements, but disrupting the tone of Hemingway’s novel almost entirely–gone is the ugliness, with the brutal, defeatist description of the retreat rendered as a forgettable montage. It is understandable why director Frank Borzage was assigned to the task of directing the adaptation in that Hemingway’s novel dealt with both melodramatics and the sort of love affair that temporarily puts the rest of the world on hold, but Borzage’s typical third acts couldn’t be any different from Hemingway’s climax. On its own terms, however, A Farewell to Arms has some charms, even if it is one of Borzage’s weaker pictures from the period. There’s little sense of place and contextualization–Borzage seems bored of the war element, robbing the conflict of its sense of urgency. Gary Cooper strives to play vulnerable in the film’s final act, but he struggles with the material–three years later he would deal with similar emotions more effectively in Peter Ibbetson. But Borzage and cinematographer Charles Lang’s images are splendid, both doing justice to the actors’ performances with close-ups and long takes and also creating beautifully expressionistic tableaus (the last shot is particularly rich with feeling).

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