Ernest Hemingway: Rivers to the Sea
Written by DeWitt Sage


There is a lake at twilight, its steep edges marked by the taper of tall pines. The water is almost black against the reflected whiteness of the sky.

We hear only the wind on the water and then, in the distance, the rhythmic, metallic pull of oars against oarlock, the sound receding, faint even now.
over this, superimpose very briefly...

Three Shots
A Short Story by Ernest Hemingway

Traces of wind move quickly across the water.
(Begin piano. Bach, Goldberg Variations, The Aria)

In a small clearing above the lake, we see the misshapen shadows of two men against the nearly white canvas, cast now with orange, uneven in the fire's light.

Storyteller
Nick was undressing in the tent. He saw the shadows of his father
and Uncle George cast by the fire on the canvas wall. He felt very
uncomfortable and ashamed and undressed as fast as he could,
piling his clothes neatly. He was ashamed because undressing
reminded him of the night before.

A loon slips beneath the surface of the lake and does not reappear.
The sound of the oarlocks (and music) continue, under.

Storyteller (cont.)
His father and uncle had gone off across the lake after supper to fish
with a jack light. Before they shoved the boat out his father told him
that if any emergency came up while they were gone he was to fire
three shots with the rifle and they would come right back.

Now, moving right to left, we see the dark oval of the row boat's transom...an oar's whirlpool and the gentle ripple of the row boat's wake.


Storyteller (cont.)
Walking back through the woods, Nick began to be frightened.
He was always a little frightened of the woods at night. He opened
the flap of the tent and undressed and lay very quietly between the
blankets in the dark.

A gentle gust brightens the fire's embers and an eddy of ashes lift and resettle.
(Music ends.) We hear only the stirring of the trees.

Storyteller (cont.)
Nick felt if he could only hear a fox bark or an owl or anything he
would be all right. He was not afraid of anything definite as yet.
But he was getting very afraid.

We see the side of Nick's tent that is closest to the fire. There is something moving against the flap.

Storyteller (cont.)
Then suddenly he was afraid of dying. Just weeks before at home, in
church, they had sung a hymn, "Some day the silver cord will break."
While they were singing the hymn, Nick had realized that some day
he must die. It made him feel quite sick.

The lake by now is a patchwork of light and dark, moving abstractly beyond the soft blackness of a low branch. We hear only the easy lapping of water against the stone shore.

Storyteller (cont.)
It was the first time he had ever realized that he himself would have
to die sometime. Last night in the tent he had the same fear. . .
It was more a realization than a fear at first. But it was always on the
edge of fear and became fear very quickly when it started.

Seen from above, a single yellow beam of lantern light silhouettes the dinghy's stern and scans darkened lake. We hear again the sound of slow, even rowing.

Suddenly, the sound echoes out across the water.

Storyteller (cont.)
He heard the shots rip off through the trees.

Storyteller (cont.)
. . .He was asleep before his father and uncle had put out their jack
light on the other side of the lake.

Three Shots

And then the lantern and the lake light fade to black.
The lake sounds fade and from the black:

Main Title

Under the main title, we hear the sound of engines starting, almost in sequence. In the distance orders are shouted.

Foot soldiers, hundreds, in rows of four, are moving slowly along a thin dirt road. . . a sinuous curve.

Superimpose
Near the Piave River
Italy, 1918

A still of new ambulances, angled, with drivers at the ready.

In a still, we see the young Hemingway at the wheel of an ambulance, beaming.
The war ambulances pull out and away from camera.
They become a small part of larger images of trench warfare. Men are crawling through mortars and mud and many are dying.

(Begin Music. Bach, Unaccompanied Cello Suite No.1, The Prelude)


The sound of wind through a narrow mountain pass. A thin flight of swallows rises and drops incongruously across fields thick with mud and bodies. One body is moving, then struggling to crawl forward. Smoke rises from a heap of uniforms and from a trench just beyond. Part of a horse lies across a human torso. As this grim landscape continues. . .

Storyteller (cont.)
Through the other noise I heard a cough, then came the chuh-chuh-
chuh-chuh - then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is
swung open, and a roar that started white and went red and on and
on in a rushing wind. I tried to breathe but my breath would not
come and I felt myself rush bodily out of myself and out and out and
out and out and all the time bodily in the wind.

We are looking through the front windshield of an ambulance that has lost control,careening down a mountain pass. It slows, optically, unnaturally, and off the road to its left side, there are two soldiers moving quickly through a rain-slicked trench. A mortar strikes, there is a moment of complete silence, and then the staccato of machine gun fire.

Storyteller (cont.)
I went out swiftly, all of myself, and I knew that I was dead and that
it was a mistake to think you had just died. Then I floated and instead
of going on I felt myself slide back. I breathed and I was back.

A Farewell to Arms
(Music ends.)

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