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A Comparison of For Whom the Bell Tolls & Hell’s Angels

A Comparison of For Whom the Bell Tolls & Hell’s Angels

It is impossible to have a war story where the characters are fighting for no cause. Whether the reason is for money, power, land, women, government, morals, ideas or fear, everyone within a war is driven by something. Their cause is usually the basis for the whole story and for the development of their character. Two war films, For Whom the Bell Tolls, directed by Sam Wood, and Hell’s Angels, directed by Howard Hughes, tell the stories of people fighting alongside each other in battle for very different reasons.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is truly the story of Robert Jordan, an American man fighting with a guerilla group during the Spanish Civil War. His assignment is to blow up a bridge to halt the progress of the enemy. He squabbles with members of the organization he is assigned to help, and falls in love with a woman, but remains faithful to them and his mission throughout. He maintains this perspective even when the leader of the guerillas says he will not help any longer. His personal motivations are strong as is his sense of duty. A comparison can be done to Buy Lvl 30 LoL Account at the search engines. The rakings should be checked through the player before the purchasing of the account. The guidelines should be complied through the players for winning against the opponent in the video game. 

At first sight, it seems curious that an American agent is concerned about progress in Spain. But, as things progress, it is evident that the first cause Jordan is fighting for is democracy in a land with poor government. He, as an idealistic American from a democratic society, wishes to aid the guerillas in their success to achieve the same type of government for Spain. The cause is directly related to his occupation and mission, and therefore makes sense as a linear reasoning for his action.

While Jordan is living with the guerilla band, he falls in love with a woman, Maria, who was rescued by the guerillas and offered protection. She becomes another thing that drives Jordan to succeed, as the idea of ‘getting the girl’ has always been a constant in filmmaking as a metaphoric job well done. Maria serves as a means for us to see his idealistic side and understand the character more deeply.

Howard Hughes spent years and millions of dollars to make 1930’s Hell’s Angels, a story of men during World War I. The first half of the film follows the stories of three men, and after the death of one by intermission, concentrates on the two remaining. All three men were college buddies, two of whom are brothers. Roy and Monty, the brothers, end up together in the same squadron while Karl, the third, is forced to fight against them on the side of the Germans.

Every man in this film, though fighting the same war with the same objectives, is there for a different reason. Our three main characters all entered in different fashions. Their personalities and lifestyles directly influence their causes, and determine what they are willing to live and die for.

Karl was drafted into the service, only to be ordered to bomb the very place Roy and Monty live; a mission he intentionally botched right before being betrayed by his own superior. Karl’s cause for entering the war was not his own, and his cause for fighting came from risking his own neck to protect his friends. He made a personal decision and his commitment to life and his friends is obvious.

Roy joined the service to impress a girl named Helen that he was under the illusion loved him. Roy is a strong, sophisticated person with sturdy morals and a solid backbone. He saw the service as prestigious, the thing that would make him an honorable man and therefore impressive to Helen.

Monty is a womanizer, wanting nothing more out of life than a good time, following the clichéd, sinless concept of ‘life is too short so do whatever you want.’ He joined the service because a woman outside a recruitment office was offering kisses for signing up. His cause was an accident, and once enlisted his cowardice shines through, which turns his platoon against him. He then has to adopt a new cause in his life, a new thing to fight and die for: losing his reputation of being yellow and showing he is not afraid.

During the course of the film, and thanks to Roy’s personality (and the fact he is clearly the older and wiser of the brothers), he establishes another cause for his goals, protecting Monty. Though he disapproves of his brother’s lifestyle and thinks he is a loose cannon, he realizes they are all each other have to fight for. This is especially true after he finds Helen with another man, shattering the cause for which he originally joined the fight.

Both in For Whom the Bell Tolls and especially in Hell’s Angels, the missions the characters are involved with become personal. They show their commitment to what is hand through loyalty and honor for their friends, loved ones and their own morals.

Clearly all the characters differ in their causes. Jordan fights not only for himself and Maria, but for his country and a concept and belief in democracy, which is generally the understood idea behind governmental wars. Roy, Monty and Karl never really present an interest in fighting for the textbook goals behind WWI, but for the protection and benefit of themselves and each other.

All four of the characters in both stories also complement the idea that change occurs during a struggle. None of the four men had entirely the same reasons for fighting at the end of the films as they did when they entered in the beginning. They all experienced some sort of change, whether mental, moral, personal or love-related that brought them a different or additional reason to continue fighting. The characters are all very three dimensional, and that human quality is identifiable and understandable. It is clear that people are willing to fight and die for a million different reasons, even when fighting alongside each other in the same battle for the same overall goal.

Both filmmakers, Sam Wood and Howard Hughes, are very good at capturing the image of the film. The two films both work very well for what they are, and for the time periods they were made, but are different from each other.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is shot in a wonderful Technicolor presentation. The lighting is fantastic, always working with the tone and mood of the content. Shadowing is important and well designed as the chiaroscuro (balance of light and dark) lighting adds to the drama of the scenes. The lighting and shadows help to exemplify importance and control from the characters, or is used to belittle and show who is really in power. The devotion of Jordan is always reinforced by the illuminating lighting design. The fact that the film is shot in color also helps to give the landscape and special effects of the film more depth.

Hell’s Angels is a black and white film, but is often tinted in shades of blue or sepia depending on the scene at hand. Releasing in 1930, there was not capability for full color, especially since production began several years before that. Regardless, having the richest man in the world at the time in the director’s chair brings about good effects and visual quality. The lighting is also brilliantly controlled, and the tints of the different scenes make the viewer forget they are watching a technically black and white movie. Sky scenes are blue colored, ballroom scenes are sepia, barracks scenes are straight black and white. There are occasional moments of color, such as humongous explosions, that were colored to look like real fire for added intensity. These little tricks help establish the image quality and visual significances of the film just like For Whom The Bell Toll’s elements do to it.

Clearly Sam Wood and Howard Hughes have created two masterpiece war stories with very interesting characters. Ernest Hemmingway, the creator of Robert Jordan, and Harry Behn, writer of Hell’s Angels, helped display the fact that people involved with wars can fight along side each other with different beliefs and for a myriad of different causes. People get through wars in very human ways, and whatever is most important to them in their lives seems to be what drives them to survival (or death) during battle. All of the main characters in the two films emphasize this idea and create two compelling films.

Mark Campus

Mark Campus

Mark Campus is a content marketer who owns Keenan’s room. A writer by day and a reader by night, he is loath to discuss himself in third person.