In Love and War (1996 film)

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In Love and War
In love and war poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Produced by Richard Attenborough
Written by Henry S. Villard
James Nagel
Allan Scott
Dimitri Villard
Clancy Sigal
Anna Hamilton Phelan
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited by Lesley Walker
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
  • December 18, 1996 (1996-12-18)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
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 with Italy World War I, where the president of United States sends teams of Red Cross doctors and nurses to boost Italian morale and help care of the wounded and also volunteers to drive ambulances and to work in the front line canteens. Ernest Hemingway (Chris O'Donnell), an 19 year old boy, becomes an ambulance driver in Italy, although wanting to become in the near future a well-known 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), will take good care of him and eventually fall in love. In the first night spent at the hospital, the boy tells Agnes "I love you. Let's get married.", being in a state of raving and tiredness. Because his health is getting worse, thinking that he has gangrene, Agnes tries everything to save his leg. The operation comes out as being successful. As the time passes by, the two of them will get attached, even though Agnes does not agree with the affair because of the age gap. Ernie becomes more and more attracted to the nurse and his health is also better.

The problem appears when Agnes and some other nurses need to be moved closer to the front. Due to the fact that she can't find Ernie to tell him herself the bad news, she asks Harry to lend him a letter. Ernie is shocked at finding out that his lover left. In the letter she confesses him how hard was for her to put down the words and to say goodbye. While working on the front, Agnes receive a letter from Ernie telling her how much he misses her presence. After a few days, Ernie is finally able to visit Agnes, telling her that he got new orders, in which he must return to the United States. He confesses his love for Agnes, asking her to meet him to a close hotel in order to spend their remaining time together and to promise each other daily letters, until they will be able to get married.

After some time spend 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, the doctor showing them the surroundings of Venice. The letters from Agnes soon starts to be less and less, leaving Ernie in doubt if everything is all right back there, in Italy, even though the war was finally over. While showing her a soon-to be-hospital, Dr.Domenico is proposing Agnes, but she is undecided, still thinking of Ernest. She decides to write a difficult letter to the boy, letting him know that their relationship must end, one of the reason 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 him not marrying the doctor and finding out that Ernie is still angry at her. She decides to go to Ernie's old cabin, near Lake Warloon. Still angry and too proud, he doesn't accept to restart their love story. The film ends with Agnes telling him "I love you.", while leaving the cabin and not meeting him ever 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
  • 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. ^ The New York Times  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  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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