In Love and War (1996 film)

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In Love and War
In love and war poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Attenborough
Produced byRichard Attenborough
Written byAllan Scott
Dimitri Villard
Clancy Sigal
Anna Hamilton Phelan
Music byGeorge Fenton
CinematographyRoger Pratt
Edited byLesley Walker
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • December 18, 1996 (1996-12-18)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$25,372,294

In Love and War is a 1996 romantic drama film based on the book, Hemingway in Love and War by Henry S. Villard and James Nagel. The film stars Sandra Bullock, Chris O'Donnell, Mackenzie Astin, and Margot Steinberg. Its action takes place during the First World War and is based on the wartime experiences of the writer Ernest Hemingway. It was directed by Richard Attenborough. The film was entered into the 47th Berlin International Film Festival.[1]

This film is largely based on Hemingway's real-life experiences in the First World War as a young ambulance-driver in Italy. He was wounded and sent to a military hospital, where he shared a room with Villard (who later wrote the book the movie is based on) and they were nursed by Agnes von Kurowsky. Hemingway and Kurowsky fell strongly in love, but somehow the relationship didn't work out.

The film—apparently in a deliberate attempt to capture what the director called Hemingway's "emotional intensity"—takes liberties with the facts. In real life, unlike the movie, the relationship was probably never consummated, and the couple did not meet again after Hemingway left Italy.[2]

Hemingway, deeply affected by his romantic relationship with Kurowsky, later wrote several stories about it, including A Farewell to Arms.


The film's plot starts in Italy during World War I, where the president of the United States sends teams of Red Cross doctors and nurses to boost Italian morale and help care for the wounded. Volunteers drive ambulances and work in the front line canteens. Ernest Hemingway (Chris O'Donnell), a 19-year-old boy, becomes an ambulance driver in Italy, although he wishes to become a reporter and writer. In an attempt to fight against the enemy, he ends up with a broken leg, trying to save a companion from the field. He is taken into a hospital, where an American nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky (Sandra Bullock), takes care of him. During the first night at the hospital, Ernest tells Agnes "I love you. Let's get married," while in a state of delirium. Ernest's health becomes worse, and Agnes tries everything to save his leg from what she believes is gangrene. A successful operation returns Ernest to a path of recovery. As time passes by, the two become attached, even though Agnes has reservations about the affair because of their difference in age. Ernest becomes more and more attracted to the nurse as his health slowly returns.

Eventually, Agnes and some other nurses need to be moved closer to the front. Because she can't find Ernest to tell him the bad news in person, she asks her friend to send him a letter. Ernest is shocked at finding out that she has left. While working on the front, Agnes receives a letter from Ernest telling her how much he misses her presence. After a few days, Ernest is finally able to visit Agnes, telling her that he has received new orders, which say he must return to the United States. He confesses his love for Agnes, asking her to meet him at a nearby hotel in order to spend their remaining time together and to promise each other daily letters, until they are able to get married.

After some time spent on the front, Agnes is asked by one of the nurses, a good friend with her, to spend the weekend at their doctor's house, Dr. Domenico Caracciolo, who seems to have feelings for Agnes. The three of them spend quality time together, the doctor showing them the surroundings of Venice. The letters from Agnes soon become less and less frequent, causing Ernest great concern. While showing her an unfinished hospital, Dr. Domenico proposes to Agnes. She hesitates, still thinking of Ernest. She decides to write him a difficult letter, telling him that their relationship must end, one of the reasons being the age gap between them. Ernest is devastated by this awful announcement.

Eight months later, in New York, Agnes meets an old friend and ex-patient, Harry. She confesses that she did not marry the doctor, and finds out that Ernest is still angry at her. She decides to go to Ernest's old cabin, near Lake Warloon. Still angry and proud, Ernest doesn't accept that their love story is over. The film ends with Agnes telling him "I love you" as she leaves the cabin, never to see him again.


  • Sandra Bullock as Agnes von Kurowsky
  • Chris O'Donnell as Ernest 'Ernie' Hemingway
  • Mackenzie Astin as Henry Villard
  • Margot Steinberg as Mabel 'Rosie' Rose
  • Alan Bennett as Porter
  • Ingrid Lacey as Elsie 'Mac' MacDonald
  • Emilio Bonucci as Dr. Domenico Caracciolo
  • Terence Sach as Porter
  • Carlo Croccolo as Town Mayor
  • Vincenzo Nicoli as Enrico Biscaglia
  • Tara Hugo as Katherine 'Gumshoe' De Long
  • Gigi Vivan as Italian Child
  • Giuseppe Bonato as Grandfather
  • Allegra Di Carpegna as Loretta Cavanaugh
  • Diane Witter as Adele Brown
  • Mindy Lee Raskin as Charlotte Anne Miller
  • Tracy Hostmyer as Ruth Harper
  • Tim McDonell as The Adjutant (Tenente Alberte)


The film received extremely negative reviews from critics, as it currently holds an 11% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 27 reviews. Stephen Holden in The New York Times called the film "a generic historical romance and older woman-younger man fable of sexual initiation too muted for either character to come to life".[3]

Box office[edit]

The movie performed well at the box office.[4]


  1. ^ "Berlinale: 1997 Programme". Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  2. ^ "A Hemingway Story, and Just as Fictional". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "In Love and War: A Mythical Hemingway In a Blur of Muted Love". Retrieved April 20, 2014.
  4. ^ "Weekend Box-Office Derby Appears Too Close to Call". Los Angeles Times. 1997-01-27. Retrieved 2012-05-31.

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