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Niven Busch, his sherry and 'closed for repairs'


Hemingway & Gellhorn: The use of colours
Walter Murch Film-maker
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The nature of a film like Hemingway & Gellhorn and is that the... Going into that process, where you know you have to go from a standing start, so to speak, to a finished film in less than seven months... Usually, a film like that would take, certainly, a year, from starting shooting to the final answer print. Sometimes 11 months. Sometimes 13 months. Sometimes 15 months. But seven months is on the short side. But not for television. But this had... The challenges of this were that – of Hemingway & Gellhorn – was that there was this level of technical difficult challenge on top of everything else that goes on. And then you see certain opportunities that you have to take advantage of things that emerge out of the whole process.

One of the things about the film is that it travels back and forth from black and white to colour, to a kind of, let's call it, 'Lumière' colour, sort of turn of the century, early version two-strip colour, where things are not completely fleshed out. And we had filters that we evolved in the process to... For each of these stages, and sometimes even more. And I would discover things that were new to me as a result of this process, which is a scene, for instance, in the trenches during the Spanish Civil War, where Hemingway and Gellhorn are there as reporters, and the battle is going on all around them, and then at the end of the battle, they are... they're still alive, they're not wounded, and a romance is blossoming between them, and we're making the transition from the black and white archival footage back into a more high-definition image. And what we wound up doing was taking that... Even in the... even when we were not looking at them, buried in this archival footage, we still maintained this subdued colour, as their relationship was... They were kind of feeling each other out. And then at the moment that they realised, 'there's something happening between us', then we were able to turn the colour up more. It's as if they began to blush with full colour when they realised that they... The possibility of some romantic something was growing within them.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Hemingway & Gellhorn

Duration: 3 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017