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For Whom the Bell Tolls

Posted : 4 years, 11 months ago on 12 January 2014 08:03

Uneven in tone, vague in political beliefs and overripe with romance, For Whom the Bell Tolls is an overly long super-production that at least has three fine performances to steer it towards a likeable direction. By no means a great example of adaptation, Bell Tolls at least has Gary Cooper leading the way. If any actor felt like a perfect foil for Hemingway’s conflicted and out-sized heroes it was the stoic Cooper.

Cooper plays an American with a talent for explosives, weary but yearning to be where the action is, he finds himself in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. Eventually he hooks up with a group of rebels and much of the film is spent weighing the pros and cons of a specific bridge’s destruction and its strategic values. Factor in plenty of romantic interludes between Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, never quite getting a handle on that accent but looking incandescent, a few battle scenes, and loads of debating between the guerilla fighters, and the film’s near three hours presents a challenge.

Editing is key, and a very fine art. Bell Tolls suffers from excessive padding and not knowing what to cut or shorten in an adaptation. It’s not that there’s too much plot to justify this length, but too little and much of it could have been shortened to provide some clarity or a point-of-view. I would have played up the politics and moral quagmires and played down the romance myself, but here they’re given semi-equal weight. The romance wins out in the end, and the politics become murky and indecisive. You see, the romantic leads aren’t as interesting as the heads of the guerilla fighters.

Katrina Paxinou and Akim Tamiroff give great performances as Pilar and Pablo. Paxinou in particular steals the film, creating a tough, wise and thoughtful woman fighting for what she believes is right. Scenes in which she details her life and history of political ideology to Bergman spark with a fully lived in and thought-out inner life for the character. It’s no wonder that Paxinou walked away with an Oscar for all of her trouble. Or that Tamiroff earned a nomination for his Pablo, a hard man who trusts no one but Pilar and questions why they’re taking in an adventure-seeking American. His Pablo is a scarred man, broken and content to hide away in their mountain refugee taking out smaller and easier tasks. His humiliation in being overrun by Pilar is some fine acting. They make a great duo and both turn in fine work, but it’s Paxinou’s prideful and hardened face that lingers the longest in your memory.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 24 October 2013 02:30

It has some power ans texts that surpass the Hemingwayana clichés about love, ant romantic death. Is tight, landscape ok, great supporters as Paxinou and Tamiroff. Agony, irony and some subtleties in a Hollywoodd star package.

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