October 1944 in war torn Italy. Hana (Juliette Binoche), a French-Canadian nurse working in a mobile army medical unit, feels like everything she loves in life dies on her. Because of the difficulty traveling and the dangers, especially as the landscape is still heavily booby-trapped with mines, Hana volunteers to stay behind at a church to care solely for a dying semi-amnesiac patient, who is badly burned and disfigured. She agrees to catch up to the rest of the unit after he dies. All the patient remembers is that he is English, and that he is married. Their solitude is disrupted with the arrival at the church of fellow Canadian David Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), part of the Intelligence Service, who is certain that he knows the patient as a man who cooperated with the Germans. Caravaggio believes that the patient's memory is largely intact, and that he is running away from his past, in part, or in its entirety. The patient does open up about his past, all surrounding his work as a ...Written by
This is the only movie from 1996 nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars. See more »
When the British soldiers are discussing getting through the mountains, one says, "The Bell maps show a way," to which another replies, "Let's hope he was right." In fact Bell was Gertrude Bell, the first woman to be hired as a British military intelligence officer. See more »
Could I have a cigarette?
Are you crazy?
Why... why are you so determined to keep me alive?
Because I'm a nurse.
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The producer and director wish to thank The Tozeur District Governor. See more »
Epic story that mixes lust with a mystery story worthy stuff but a touch too slow
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 life.
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.
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