The English Patient
Top Links
trailers and videosfull cast and crewtriviaofficial sitesmemorable quotes
main detailscombined detailsfull cast and crewcompany credits
Awards & Reviews
user reviewsexternal reviewsawardsuser ratingsparents guide
Plot & Quotes
plot summarysynopsisplot keywordsmemorable quotes
Did You Know?
triviagoofssoundtrack listingcrazy creditsalternate versionsmovie connectionsFAQ
Other Info
box office/businessrelease datesfilming locationstechnical specsliterature listingsNewsDesk
taglines trailers and videos posters photo gallery
External Links
showtimesofficial sitesmiscellaneousphotographssound clipsvideo clips
The content of this page was created directly by users and has not been screened or verified by IMDb staff.

Warning! This synopsis may contain spoilers

See plot summary for non-spoiler summarized description.
Visit our Synopsis Help to learn more
Unable to edit? Request access
Set before and during World War II, The English Patient is a story of love, fate, misunderstanding and healing. Told in a series of flashbacks, the film can best be explained by unwinding it into its two chronological phases.

In the first phase, set in the late 1930s, the minor Hungarian noble Count Laszlo de Almsy (Ralph Fiennes) is co-leader of a Royal Geographical Society archeological and surveying expedition in Egypt and Libya. He and his English partner Madox (Julian Wadham) are at heart academics with limited sophistication in the swirling politics of Europe and North Africa. Shortly after the film begins, both the morale and finances of their expedition are bolstered by a British couple, Geoffrey and Katherine Clifton (Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas) that joins the exploration party. The Count is taken with the gorgeous and refined Katherine. When Geoffrey is often away from the group on other matters, an affair takes wing.

The final months before the war's onset bring an archaeological triumph: the Count's discovery of an ancient Saharan cave decorated with swimming figure paintings dating from prehistoric times. This period also sees the romance between Katherine and the Count rise to a sensuous peak and then seemingly fade. Katherine is plagued with the guilt of infidelity, while the Count shows a streak of jealousy along with an imbalance that will later haunt him.

The fall of 1939 and the war bring all excavation at the cave to a halt, and Madox and the Count go their separate ways. Geoffrey Clifton meanwhile has pieced together the outline of the affair, and seeks a sudden and dramatic revenge: crashing his plane, with Katherine aboard, into the Count's desert camp. The wreck kills Geoffrey instantly, seriously injures Katherine, and narrowly misses the Count. He manages to take Katherine into the relative shelter of the swimming figure cave, leaves her with water, a flashlight, and a fire, then begins his scorching three day walk back to Cairo and help. The mood in British-controlled Egypt has shifted since the films start and the dazed and dehydrated Count, with his non-English name, is unable to coherently explain to officials the plane crash and Katherine's plight. Instead he loses his temper during questioning and is thrown into military jail. By the time he is able to escape and return to the cave (with German help), his Katherine is dead. And in all but a physical sense, so is the Count.

The films second phase shifts to Italy and the last months of the war. The Count by now is an invalid, having been horribly burned in a plane crash of his own not long after Katherine's death. The Count is wholly dependent by this time on morphine and the care of his French-Canadian nurse Hana (Juliette Binoche), detached from her medical unit and established in a battered but beautiful Italian villa.

The villa becomes focal point for more plot threads, some new and some unfinished from the North African phase, all themed around love, fate, and the backdrop of the war. Hana has seen a fianc and a nursing friend die in the Italian campaign, and is left to wonder if her involvement with a British-Indian lieutenant will break her cycle of love and grief or simply continue it. A visitor to the villa named David Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe) at first believes he has simply found another source of morphine for his habit, but then realizes the disfigured Count played a role in his own ill-starred time in Egypt and Libya. For Caravaggio unwittingly stumbled into the wreckage of the Count-Katherine-Geoffrey love triangle, circa 1940-42. He's lost both thumbs in a grisly interrogation at the hands of the Nazis, and has since hunted down and killed those he believes responsible for his fate. He believes the Count was part of a web of spying and intrigue, confronts him with news of Madox's suicide, and posits that the Count killed the Cliftons. Only a full recounting at the villa of the Cliftons' crash and the Count's map dealings with the Germans to recover Katherine bring Caravaggio to understanding and forgiveness. So too does Hana find reconciliation at the film's end. Her lieutenant survives a brush with death on the war's last day and her hope in love is restored. Alas, time has run out on the Count; he succumbs to his burns and drifts off into dreams of his Katherine.


Related Links

Plot summary Plot keywords FAQ
Parents Guide User reviews Quotes
Trivia Main details MoKA: keyword discovery