The key to “Hemingway’s” success is that its creators and talking heads don’t just bow to the altar of some of his breathtaking writings, they invite the experts to explain how Hemingway rewrote the rulebook. literary, always keeping a skillful balance between analyzing his work and capturing how that work emerged from his personal life and interests. And they’ve also put together an incredible roster of vocal talent, including Meryl Streep and Jeff Daniels, who express Hemingway’s handwriting and letters in a way that breathes new life into them. I could listen to Daniels read Hemingway’s news for hours. Instead, this documentary just got me to buy a collection of it because I realized there were a few masterpieces that I had never read or forgotten. Yes, it’s the rare TV project that makes you want to buy a book.
“Hemingway” is divided into three chapters, which will air for three consecutive nights on PBS, titled “A Writer”, “The Avatar” and “The Blank Page”. The first chapter offers the most detail I personally didn’t know about Hemingway’s childhood, adolescence, and early writing strokes, revealing how much he pushed against standards of form and content, even at a very young age. Hemingway is often accused of elevating misogyny through his hyper-masculine hunter / gatherer characters, but it’s clear that he deconstructed these myths as often as he celebrated them, especially in the short stories he wrote to one. young age. Alternating old photographs of his childhood with strict and religious parents with his handwriting, one really captures how one influenced the other without the kind of straight line drawing done by cheaper documentary filmmakers. This is one of the true geniuses of Burns and Novick: they do not make “explanatory” documents, films or series that seek answers, but present a competing image and allow the viewer to draw their own conclusions. .
One of the many smart decisions in this production is to really center Hemingway’s writing. Scribbled notebooks of his work fill the screen as Daniels and others read his published works and private letters. This is a documentary about someone who truly valued the power of the written word – he viewed writing as a noble and stimulating profession – and the series about him respects his commitment to his craft in the way he the frame. However, Burns and Novick aren’t afraid to confront some of the darker sides of a man who had four wives and who often abused people who helped him along the way, either directly or through his fiction. .