Now beautifully restored by Lobster Films, A Farewell to Arms is released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.
A forgotten masterpiece, Frank Borzage’s film of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, published just two years earlier, is both a persuasive picture of the nightmare that was World War One and a deeply affecting tribute to the transcendent power of love.
Sexy and irreverent, Gary Cooper excels as Frederic Henry, an American serving in the Italian ambulance brigade who meets, through his cynical, womanising doctor friend (Adolphe Menjou), Catherine (Helen Hayes), an English nurse whose fiancé died at the Somme. Frederic’s initial attempts to flirt fail to impress Catherine, but war can have an odd way of bringing people together… While the film successfully evokes the horrific carnage, cruel authoritarianism and despair-inducing dimensions of modern mechanised warfare, it centres on the flowering of a relationship so passionate and mutually regenerative that it overcomes even the constraints of time and place.
Charles Lang’s fluid, painterly, Oscar-winning cinematography (combining expressionism and incandescence), several truly remarkable montage sequences and the rapt performances all add up to a delirious Romanticism characteristic of Borzage at his best; the extraordinary Liebestod that forms its climax is at once utterly exhilarating and strangely modern.
Certificate: PG Distributor: BFI Distribution
Dir. Frank Borzage, US, 1932, 80 min
Cast: Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes, Adolphe Menjou