For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1943

A good movie, but it doesn’t measure up to the novel by Ernest Hemingway. The portrayal of Pablo and the dynamics of his group of partisans is insightful. Less so is Robert Jordan’s character and motivation, and his relationship with the girl. The stars, Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, do well enough. The actors playing Pablo, Pilar, and the others are impressive.

For Whom the Bell Tolls came out in 1943, and maybe because we were at war with the fascists the ending leaves an impression markedly different from the novel’s. Still, there’s only one short why-we-fight speech promoting the anti-fascist cause. The movie evenhandedly and explicitly presents acts of barbarous cruelty being committed by both sides.

The color looks crude and not very well done on the 1998 Universal Home Video DVD. The spectacular mountain scenery would go better in black and white. For Whom the Bell Tolls is nearly three hours long. It held my interest and never dragged, but I’m unlikely to watch it again – I’ll read the book instead.

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