How does the film of "Hills Like White Elephants" highlight new understandings of the story? 

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The best thing about the short film adaptation of Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" written by Joan Dideon and John Gregory Dunn was the cinematography. The twin railroad tracks with the little bar room looked exactly as I pictured them when reading the story. The bleak landscape seemed exactly the same as Hemingway described it, although I didn't notice any hills that looked like white elephants. The authors stretched out the story by adding a lot of their own dialogue--which I found offensive since they can't write dialogue as good as Hemingway's and since it seems like a desecration to plaster their own mediocre dialogue on top of the existing dialogue. In fact, it amazed me that anybody would even think of doing such a thing--but apparently they felt that the film would have had too short a running time if they didn't do something to stretch it out. They didn't improve on it or make it any more understandable. The photographer and the director did succeed in making the setting easier to visualize. The two main characters--the man and the woman--didn't look anything like the people I imagined while reading the story. They really don't have much to talk about, since it is the same thing over and over: "I want you to do it" ... "I don't want to do it." I noticed in the credits that the character played by the actress was called Hadley, which was the name of Hemingway's first wife. She actually did have a baby at around the same time that Hemingway published the story--so the screenwriters must have believed, as I do, that the American and the "girl" in Hemingway's story were married and that he was writing about his own personal experience.


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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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It's been a while since I've seen the cinematic version of Hemingway's classic short story about a couple who struggle to decide to do with an unexpected pregnancy, but here is what I recall.

The musical score added both a tension and a sweetness at crucial moments, underscoring in an audible way the tangled emotions of the man and the woman.

Visually, the cinematography is beautiful.  Unlike some films that take liberties with interpretations of locales, this filmmaker uses the actual mountains and vistas of Spain.  The train, so symbolic of the passage the two must cross, the darkness and light they encounter, both emotionally and literally, is brought to life, putting the viewer/reader in the characters frames of mind even more vividly.   

Furthermore, we see their dilemma much more clearly.  The hotels, the luxury, the freedom the couple will be forced to give up should the woman decide not to have the abortion. 


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