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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Hemingway

Premiering April 5 on PBS / Film & TV

Ernest Hemingway is like the Vietnam War—a complicated subject sifted to dry dust but leaving significant stones unturned. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick masterfully upturned the stones of Vietnam, parsing through the mess of myth and fact in their monumental 10-part, 18-hour documentary The Vietnam War. Now, in a humbler three-parter, the filmmakers look to the great American writer. Voice acting comes from Jeff Daniels as Hemingway and Meryl Streep, Keri Russell, Mary-Louise Parker, and Patricia Clarkson as his four wives. “I’m trying in all my stories to get the feeling of actual life across, to actually make it alive,” wrote Hemingway. “So that when you’ve read something by me, you actually experience the thing.” Burns, Novick, and the camera crew took his animating principle to heart. When they show us the writer’s endless and painstaking revisions to the last lines of A Farewell to Arms—there were 47 different endings—we feel as if we’re right there in the struggle. —J.V.

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