Hemingway's "Indian Camp": Story into Film
H. R. Stoneback
"Is dying hard, Daddy?"
"No, I think it's pretty easy, Nick. It all depends."
Ernest Hemingway, "Indian Camp"
This chapter examines Ernest Hemingway "Indian Camp" and Brian Edgar's 1990 film adaptation of the story. Edgar's film had its world premiere at the "Hemingway and the Movies" Symposium held at the State University of New York--New Paltz in 1990; since then it has been featured at the International Hemingway Conference at the Kennedy Library in Boston and at various international film festivals. My treatment of the story and the film will be rooted in certain facts, stances, and experiences: (1) I served the filmmaking process in the capacity of script and location consultant; (2) I brought to that function a certain logocentric skepticism and "textual purism" grounded in my primary academic identity of Hemingway scholar-critic; (3) I learned a good deal in the process of the making of the film about the risks, the extraordinary difficulties and delicacies of making a film from a classic short story; (4) I hold no brief here as film critic, and even if I were sufficiently endowed with filmic vocabulary and categories of perception and analysis, I would resist their full deployment in such a discussion, for my primary concern, professionally and personally, is fiction, not film.
For two years I have watched and studied, over and over, the Brian Edgar film of "Indian Camp," trying to see truly what is there, trying to form an exact constatation, trying also to block out the simultaneous unrolling in my mind of Hemingway's text, which I know by heart, which I have taught and discussed hundreds of times. I have lately begun to feel that I know less and less about the making of fiction into film, that the process is far more enigmatic, far more mysterious, than I could have guessed before my initiation as a consultant in the "Indian Camp" film project. To all of this add the memory, the resonance as I write these words, of long wet cold all-night location shooting of the