‘Hemingway’ Summary & Review – Emotional And Insightful


An extremely factual documentary could be burdensome for a normal audience. Most successful documentary films deliver figures/facts without compromising the interest of their viewers. Ken Burns is one of those documentary filmmakers who has made entertaining historical documentaries with preciseness. His nonfictional narratives are always intriguing. They’re like feeding a child medicines hidden in a Candy Floss. 3-part documentary series on Ernest Hemingway not only takes you on the journey to narrate the spectacular life of Hemingway but also covers the influences on his writings, something he did behind closed doors. Let’s find out more.

‘Hemingway’ Summary

The documentary series captures the conflicted childhood of Ernest Hemingway and the horrors he witnessed in the First World War while working as a medic. The visuals of the field stayed with him forever. He tried to express the same brutality and terror in his books, and maybe because he had seen so much, he needed a gateway to express. Novels and short stories became his medium.

The series also narrates Hemingway’s unbalanced personal life. Ernest Hemingway was a man of many charms and it was for this season, he fell in love with a woman and vice versa. He married four times which isn’t quite normal for the period he lived in.

Edna O’Brien, an Irish novelist, an interviewee for the documentary expresses his own perception of Hemingway’s behavior.

“When people want to go away, there are two thighs attached to it. One is adventure and new things, new sights, new scenes, danger, whatever. But the other, which I believe again, it is only my hunch, is to escape his own family. Writers do. They have to.”

Edna O’Brien

Each of Hemingway’s works came up with a new love affair. While the documentary doesn’t make any claims but I felt, it all started with love. Hemingway fell in love with an elder nurse while serving in the army, but when that relationship was crushed, he expressed his pain in his writings. Ernest Hemingway idealized love so much that it gave him energy. Following a mundane routine life, he couldn’t concentrate on writing, but when he found a new love in a woman, in a hunting-sport or bull-fighting, he expressed those emotions vigorously in words.

Another important layer explored in the documentary is Hemingway’s relationship with his parents. Like all normal children, he hated them. His father killed himself and he resented his actions. He called him a coward and also blamed his mother to push him deep into depression. Hemingway tried throughout not to end up like his father, a weakling who couldn’t face the truth. Ironically, Hemingway shot himself in the end.

Ernest Hemingway had a gift. It was the gift of words. During his last moments, the shock therapy used to cure his depression also caused memory loss. He wasn’t able to write after that and I feel, when you rob a man of his soul, there is nothing left to survive. Maybe, Hemingway felt the same.

What I love about Ken Burns body of work is his depiction of factual information. He never serves you those cold facts. He has the skill to graph his narratives creating an emotional impact around historical figures and facts. In simple words, he narrates the real truth but in a dreamy movie-like style. He takes you on an emotional ride which is quite brilliant. His documentary series, Hemingway, is quite balanced too. He doesn’t create an opinion about the man and lets you decide whether he was good or bad. He just gave you a story about a likable man, acceptance is your part of the job.

With a running time of almost 6 hours divided into 3 episodes of 2 hours each, I felt watching this documentary would be a burden. But once I started, I couldn’t stop playing the next episode. The series provides an insight into the life of the World’s most famous author and anyone who likes watching documentaries or wishes to get an idea about Ernest Hemingway, should surely watch this one.

Hemingway is a 2021 Documentary series depicting the life of American novelist, Ernest Hemingway. The series is narrated by Peter Coyote and directed by Ken Burns. It is available for Video On Demand.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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