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In a style reminiscent of the best of David Lean, this romantic love story
sweeps across the screen with epic proportions equal to the vast desert
regions against which it is set. It's a film which purports that one does
not choose love, but rather that it's love that does the choosing,
regardless of who, where or when; and furthermore, that it's a matter of the
heart often contingent upon prevailing conditions and circumstances. And
thus is the situation in `The English Patient,' directed by Anthony
Minghella, the story of two people who discover passion and true love in the
most inopportune of places and times, proving that when it is predestined,
love will find a way.
It's WWII; flying above the African desert, Hungarian Count Laszlo de Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) is shot down, his biplane mistaken for an enemy aircraft. And though he survives the crash, he is severely burned. To his great good fortune, however, he is rescued by a tribe of nomads and winds up in a hospital. But existing conditions are governed by circumstances of war, and Almasy soon becomes one of many patients being transported via convoy to a different facility. Upon reaching Italy, he is too weak and ill to continue on, and a Canadian nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche), volunteers to stay behind with him at an abandoned monastery.
Hana soon discovers that her charge is something of a man of mystery, as Almasy remembers nothing of his past, and not even his own name. Thought to be English, the only clues pointing to who he is are contained in a book found in his possession after the crash, but even they are as cryptic as Hana's patient. Slowly, however, under prompting from Hana, Almasy begins to remember bits and pieces of his life, and his story begins to unfold. And his memory is helped along even more by the appearance of a mysterious stranger named Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), who suspects that Almasy is the man he's been looking for-- a man with whom he wants to settle a score. But, burned beyond recognition, Almasy may or may not be that man. Meanwhile, Almasy's memories continue to surface; memories of a woman he loved, Katherine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas)-- as well as memories of Katherine's husband, Geoffrey (Colin Firth). And, crippled in mind and body as he is, those memories become the only thing left to which he can cling with any hope at all, even as his life seems to be slipping farther away with each passing moment.
In addition to directing, Anthony Minghella also wrote the screenplay for this film, which he adapted from the novel by Michael Ondaatje. The result is an epic saga presented in the tradition of Lean's `Doctor Zhivago' and `Lawrence of Arabia'; a magnificent film that fills the screen and the senses with unprecedented grandeur and beauty. Simply put, Minghella's film is genius realized; crafted and delivered with a poetic perfection, watching it is like watching a Monet come to life. From the opening frames, Minghella casts a hypnotic spell over his audience that is binding and transporting, with a story that has an emotional beauty that equals the engagingly stunning and vibrant images brought to life by John Seale's remarkable cinematography; images that virtually fill the screen as well as the soul of the viewer. In every sense, this is a film of rare eloquence, with a striking emotional capacity that facilitates an experience that is truly transcendental. Nominated in twelve categories, it deservedly received a total of nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress (Binoche) and Cinematography.
If one had to choose a single word to describe the `essence' of this film, it would be `excellence.' Even an extraordinary film, however, does not receive nine Oscars without performances that are extraordinary in kind; and the performances given by Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas here transcend the term `Oscar worthy.' Nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Almasy (Geoffrey Rush was awarded the gold for `Shine'), Fiennes has never been better, achieving an emotional depth with his character that is nearly palpable. Private and introspective, Almasy is not by his very nature an individual to whom the audience will be able to form an intimate connection; Fiennes, however, finds a way to open that emotional door just enough to let you in, enough so that you taste the honest passion welling up within him. And it works. Almasy does not seek your friendship; he will, however, gain your compassion.
Kristen Scott Thomas, too, received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (Frances McDormand received the award for `Fargo') for her portrayal of Katherine, a woman whose stoic countenance masks the emotional conflict raging within her, born of the forbidden passion that enslaves her and yet to which she gives herself willingly, casting off her shackles of repression to embrace a love so strong it threatens to consume her. The reserve Katherine must maintain evokes the empathy of the audience, as Scott Thomas successfully mines the emotional depths of her character to the greatest possible effect. It's the kind of performance that draws you in and holds you fast, taking you as it does beyond that curtain of hypocrisy that dictates what must be if only for the sake of appearances, and allows you to experience a true sense of unbridled passion. Understated and shaded with subtlety, it's terrific work by Kristin Scott Thomas.
Binoche gives a stunning, affecting performance, as well, as the kindhearted nurse, Hana; it is her humanity, in fact, which defines love in it's purest sense and offers a balanced perspective of it within the context of the film. Her relationship with Kip (Naveen Andrews) affords us a glimpse of passion of another kind, which contrasts effectively with the intensity of that between Almasy and Katherine. `The English Patient' is a film that will move you and fill you emotionally; one you will not want to see end. 10/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'The English Patient' is a love story set in Europe as World War II
ends... It is a wartime romance mystery epic, like 'Hiroshima, Mon
Amour,' 'The Sweet Hereafter,' and 'After Life.' Anthony Minghella
weaves extravagant beauty around a central character whose condition is
grotesque, and puts emotional barriers between the characters and the
This adult love story is an intimate portrait in the tradition of 'Casablanca' and 'Dr. Zhivago.' The film sweeps gracefully attaining a level of eroticism and emotional connection that many similar films had missed... Told in flashback, it is a masterpiece of intimate moment and spectacular largesse...
Ralph Fiennes plays the English patient, Count Laszlo de Almasy, a Hungarian cartographer of few words, who works for the British government, and is stationed in the North African desert...
Count Laszlo is the unidentified survivor of a plane crash turned over to the Allies, taken into custody by a medical convoy in Italy, and essentially left to die in peace, in an isolated monastery in Tuscany, under the care of an inspiring pretty nurse who injects him with morphine, and reads to him a book, considered his great treasure, and his one surviving possession...
Hana seeks to stimulate his touching memories, wrapped up in his head, released in lost pieces from his disturbed mind...
Fiennes gives a haunted, pained performance, playing the young man whose veneer of charm cannot plainly cover his heart's capacity for passion... He makes us sympathize with the character in showing self-doubt and weakness... As a badly burned man, he has only cherished memories... His joy and heartbreak are completely clear and visible in his eyes... He remembers falling under the spell of an attractive English married woman... He remembers the way this turns him from a harsh abrupt wanderer into a man willing to betray everything for love... His tragic love affair forms the heart of the motion picture...
Kristin Scott Thomas matches Fiennes' work with a radiant sensuality... She is captivating as the married European woman, conveying the audience with the energy and enthusiasm for life that the Count finds irresistible... Their different world, despairing and hopeful, menacing and resilient, is simply beautiful... With intense passion and intelligence, this attractive blonde burns the screen as the different wife...
Juliette Binoche seems to shine as the French-Canadian nurse full of life and energy... This vibrant young woman has a heart of gold, kissing wounded soldiers, but she thinks that she is a curse as anybody she ever loved tends to die on her...
Colin Firth is good as Katherine's husband... He is a British spy flying into the tough desert in a yellow biplane to take aerial maps of the whole North African continent... He quickly becomes friend of the Count, yet when he realizes that his wife has committed adultery, his face reflected a peaceful fury...
William Dafoe plays a double-agent spy who covers his anger with a strange charm... He is a crippled war veteran who has a hidden agenda... This cunning Canadian man seems to know of some dark secret in Almasy's past... He believes the 'English patient' is partially responsible for the mutilation of his hands, and is busy seeking revenge on everyone even remotely involved...
Naveen Andrews is Hana's ardent lover He is a handsome Sikh, and an explosives expert with a dangerous job There's a scene that is stuck in my head because it literally had me on the edge of my seat for what seemed an eternity In this particular scene, the military sapper has to cut the wires on a bomb that has been hidden on a bridge It's on a timer and he only has a few minutes left The scene cuts back and forth between his tense face, the wires and his dirty fingers as they try madly to figure out how to untangle and cut the wires without detonating the bomb
All the conventional elements of the genre are at peaks of excellence in "The English Patient." John Seale's cinematography is breathtaking, and Gabriel Yared's majestic music is dreamy, and romantic This is a rich motion picture with ambition and style, a fever dream, lyrical and complex We are almost able to feel the heat of the desert, the pain of the burnings, the intimate flush of humanity that becomes the most haunting element of this epic love story...
I can understand why some people think this movie is boring. I think it
appeals much more to people who are used to the pacing of classic
I'm sure many of those who hated it are much like a co-worker of mine who said "Books? I haven't a book since I had to in high school." I checked some of the names of the people who reviled this movie and sure enough it seems many of them think Armaggedon was an "awesome" movie and Chris Farley was a "Comic genius". And that's O.K. Taste is an individual thing.
My sensibilities tell me that the english patient is a very good movie that takes effort to appreciate. Much in this movie is very subtle. It is not a vacation for the brain.(Hey, sometimes the brain NEEDS a vacation, and stupid movies provide that!) Also, it is not a cynic's movie. It's about idealism, tragedy and regret. About how people can want the best but have it all fall apart because of bad choices, and have to go on with the regret of never being able to remedy the situation. Not so much a love story as a tragic one. So many people destroyed because of the selfishness of two people couldn't(wouldn't?) control themselves.
I would ask those who thought the movie boring to watch it again when you feel able to pay full attention to what's going on in the film and how different bits of dialogue dovetail into subtle suggestions of how the characters are feeling and thinking. This movie takes an investment of time, thought and emotion. If this investment is made, I think most people who watch it will feel rewarded.
I've seen a few movies in my time, but this one is exceptional. You'll have to watch it more than once to truly appreciate it, it is emotionally very complex, it explores love and passion at it's most extreme and it's cinematography is just breathtaking. The character of the Count is intensely passionate and tragic without him having to raise his voice or indeed leave his bed, the film is perfectly cast and perfectly acted. The film has a sort of mathematical precision and perfection to it which is rare these days. It combines action, love, tragedy, drama and politics all in one. This movie is unmissable, all the hype surrounding it and all the awards cannot begin to do it any justice. Hats off to Michael Ondaatje for writing the incredible book on which it is based.
Tuscany WW2. Traumatised by the loss of anyone she cared for or loved,
Canadian nurse Hana stays behind her unit with a dying patient, Count Laszlo
de Almásy. de Almásy is burnt all over and has lost his memory. When a
vengeful, mysterious thief arrives at their abandoned monastery with a past
that seems to include de Almásy , and as Hana reads from his book, memories
return regarding his past. He relives his story of lust and love and the
destructive force that forbidden passion unleashed upon his
This is quite a modern epic. It has the running time of an epic, it has the gorgeous cinematography of an epic, it has the acting of an epic and it has a story of love (lust) against the backdrop of major events in history. Even though it changes or leaves out a significant amount of the original novel it still manages to be a great mix of passionate desire and mystery. The mystery of the story is represented by the thief Caravaggio who casts light on what he knows of de Almásy's past (as he sees it) while the love story is unfolded as it develops in a passionate affair between him and Katherine, a colleagues' wife. The story is compelling enough to carry the long running time, at times the pace seems a little slow and when I saw it in my local multiplex there were some moments where large portions of the audience seemed to be shifting in their seats.
The love' of the story was interesting as it seems to be contrasted with Hana's relationship with Kip the bomb disposal expert. While de Almásy's relationship with Katherine starts as lust and desire before growing into what seems to be love (or could be grief at the result of their affair), Hana's is portrayed as purer and more careful as she fears those she loves will die. This difference helped me see that the film did want to show the destructive power of lust and affairs, however the fact that the central relationship was based more on lust than love took away from the emotional core of the story.
The acting is almost impeccable. Fiennes is excellent even when he is lost behind an unrecognisable mask of burnt flesh. Thomas is actually very good, I find she tends to be very wooden in some things but this type of very English character brings the best out of her. Binoche is excellent as Hana and carries the heart of the film. Dafoe is truly excellent - his element of the story is the mystery and he does it well. He is a great actor and deserves to be in things this good. The support cast include plenty of good actors including Colin Firth, Jurgen Prochnow and Naveem Andrews.
The film is beautifully shot - even though it's all a bit too picturesque to be real! However the director can handle himself well with many different scenes - a tense bomb diffusal, a passionate love scene, a dangerous sand storm etc. Overall the slow pace may frustrate some younger audiences but this is a really good film that draws it's values from classy sources.
as can be read in many reviews here it is a movie you love or hate -
apparently not so much space for opinions in between. I for one think
that is a good sign.
I always appreciated this movie, although the genre is not my typical style (I never watched Titanic for instance, and am not planning to).
The English Patient grips because it shows how people can be different when they are in an exotic environment as opposed when they are 'home' (Katherine), it shows how destructive love can be in a slow, strong and utterly painful way, it excites because of the extremely passionate affair, the pain of the one(s) who leave behind, how pointless one can feel to move on.
The photography is just stunning, not to mention the play of the actors. The pace is slow, but timely, and that does justice to the book, the timeline, and the depth/development of the characters. To put this in 110 minutes (as some seem to suggest here) would amputate the multi-layeredness of this movie. People tend to have difficulties with the pace of movies... as if they are in a rush to get to work.. hey - get a life ! ;-) enjoy...
I give this movie 4.5 out of 5.
I like this movie above all others. It is "multi-layered"; there is so much to see and appreciate. Every viewing brings a new appreciation of the story-line, the plot and the characters. Faultlessly acted and extremely enjoyable if you take the time to watch it and appreciate it. I love the interaction between the players; the subtle relationships; the period atmosphere. Ralph Fiennes is perfectly cast as the brooding lover and Geoffrey the wronged husband is beautifully underplayed by Colin Firth. The scene in the sand storm where Catherine & El-masy are discussing the different types of sand storms is one of the high-lights of the film and where the affair really starts. The other relationship between Hanna & El-masy is yet another "layer" of the movie which is totally enchanting (and heart-rending). A worthy winner of so many awards.
TEP is like a long cool drink of water after crawling across the Sahara to classic film buffs who have been too long deprived of that certain cinematic magic! Not only is it beautifully photographed, but the characters are perfectly portrayed. If you're looking for the film to be a mirror of the book, you will be seriously disappointed. Instead, it is an excellent "companion" to the book, and I think that is what Anthony Minghella intended. Ralph Fiennes is probably the most beautiful man in the world; not to mention a brilliant actor. Juliette Binoche is the posterchild for vulnerability and childlike enthusiasm. And, of course, I'll go see any film in which Kristin Scott Thomas is featured. She simply must be THE best actress since the likes of Deborah Kerr. So much was promised with this film, and so much is delivered!
Count Laszlo (Ralph Fiennes) has just been transferred to a hospital in Italy during World War II. He is horrifically burned from an ambush. His nurse Hana (Juliette Binoche) tends to him, body and mind, for she fears, quite rightly, that he may be a very troubled soul. In the course of his care, the Count starts to tell Hana of his recent past. It seems he worked in a government capacity in Africa, where he met a beautiful married lady named Katherine (Kristin Scott Thomas). Although they tried to avoid each other, they fell in love. After a brief affair, Katherine called it quits, leaving the Count desolate. Even so, the two would meet again, under heart-wrenching circumstances. Meanwhile, Hana herself falls for a Sihk man in the British bomb squad. Yet, the war is raging relentlessly. Can love exist when the world is in turmoil? This is a tremendous film, based on an equally fine but complex novel. The plot has many story lines that are woven together beautifully, each of them poignant beyond description. The script itself is elegant and contains many memorable lines. Fiennes is magnificent, both as the burn victim and as the man who thought love was a myth. Scott Thomas is also quite fine as the woman who fights against her passions. As for Binoche, she richly deserved the Oscar that she was presented, as her nurse is a shining example of hope in a hopeless situation. The scenery is utterly gorgeous, as are the costumes, the direction, and the production. If you have missed out on viewing this film, rectify that soon, very soon. The English Patient will remain one of the greatest achievements in film for centuries to come.
'The English Patient' can rightly be compared to the films of David Lean,
whose sweeping epics such as 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'Bridge on the River
Kwai' must have inspired the director Anthony Minghella. The film is
beautifully photographed, and like 'Lawrence', is set in Northern Africa,
but during the second world war. The story is complex, but it boils down to
a forbidden love between an opinionated and often difficult archeologist
played by Ralph Fiennes and a married woman played by Kristin Scott Thomas.
The story, based on a novel by Michael Ondaatje, is told in flashbacks by Fiennes' Count Laszlo de Almasy - the titular character. The fact that his name does not sound like he's English plays a key role in what unfolds. He has been badly burned in a plane crash, occurring just as the film opens, and is being cared for back in Europe by Hana, an army nurse played by Juliette Binoche. What makes this story epic is the vast sweep across place and time, and the development of characters beyond that of the two ill-fated lovers. The film makes clear that true love and passion, even with dreaded consequences, can make life worth living, or worth dying for. If you're a romantic at heart, and can appreciate a film without the standard happy endings and simple moral codes, you may find that 'The English Patient' speaks directly to you.
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