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The English Patient (1996)

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At the close of WWII, a young nurse tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim. His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair.

Director:

Anthony Minghella

Writers:

Michael Ondaatje (novel), Anthony Minghella (screenplay)
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Popularity
1,256 ( 127)
Won 9 Oscars. Another 53 wins & 75 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ralph Fiennes ... Almásy
Juliette Binoche ... Hana
Willem Dafoe ... Caravaggio
Kristin Scott Thomas ... Katharine Clifton
Naveen Andrews ... Kip
Colin Firth ... Geoffrey Clifton
Julian Wadham ... Madox
Jürgen Prochnow ... Major Muller
Kevin Whately ... Hardy
Clive Merrison ... Fenelon-Barnes
Nino Castelnuovo ... D'Agostino
Hichem Rostom Hichem Rostom ... Fouad
Peter Rühring Peter Rühring ... Bermann
Geordie Johnson Geordie Johnson ... Oliver
Torri Higginson ... Mary
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Storyline

October 1944 in war torn Italy. Hana, 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, 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 in tact 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 cartographer in North Africa, which ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

In memory, love lives forever. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality, some violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | UK

Language:

English | German | Italian | Arabic

Release Date:

6 December 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El paciente inglés See more »

Filming Locations:

Degache, Tunisia See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$27,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$278,439, 17 November 1996, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$78,651,430, 7 September 1997

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$134,700,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (rough cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | SDDS (8 channels)| DTS-Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The hollow at the base of the throat is called the Suprasternal Notch. See more »

Goofs

Katherine's husband has taken off to take pictures for the British Army because, "They want maps of all North Africa, That's why he is in Ethiopia." Ethiopia is located in Eastern Africa, not in North Africa. See more »

Quotes

Almásy: There is no God... but I hope someone looks after you.
Madox: Just in case you're interested, it's called the suprasternal notch. Come and visit us in Dorset when all this nonsense is over.
[Heads away but turns back]
Madox: You'll never come to Dorset.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Disclaimer in end credits: "While a number of the characters who appear in this film are based on historical figures, and while many of the areas described - such as the Cave of Swimmers and its surrounding desert - exist and were explored in the 1930s, it is important to stress that this story is a fiction and that the portraits of the characters who appear in it are fictional, as are some of the events and journeys." See more »

Connections

Featured in The 69th Annual Academy Awards (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Aria + Variation 1
(uncredited)
from "Goldberg Variations"
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
despite a few flaws, "The English Patient" proves itself as an enthralling modern-day epic with that same sweeping sense that made movies like "Lawrence of Arabia"
26 May 2009 | by TheUnknown837-1See all my reviews

One of the most charming and, for me at least, the most powerful elements of Anthony Minghella's enthralling Best Picture-winner "The English Patient" is that, in the mid 90s, when Hollywood was in the initial stage of having lost its nerve for grand new projects, a film was created that brought back traces—very powerful traces—of the sweeping, wonderful majesty that crafted movies such as "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) and "The Ten Commandments" (1956). "The English Patient" contains very much of what made those films so powerful. It has that glorious feeling, a stretched running time that hardly seems long at all, and fascinating characters with pasts and stories.

"The English Patient", based on a novel by the same name by Michael Ondaatje, is like "The Godfather: Part II" (1974) in the sense of how it's constructed. It's a blending of two stories: the past and the present and it all revolves around the titular character: an English patient in the post years of World War Two. Ralph Fiennes plays the English patient, who has been scarred for life by a plane crash, and being taken care of in an isolated church by a single nurse played marvelously by Juliette Binoche. Apart from bonding with her raspy-voiced, troubled patient, Binoche comes to learn about his past when a stranger (Willem Dafoe) arrives and the two men appear to know each other.

That's just one of the two beautifully crafted stories that shape this film. The other one, told in flashback, is the patient's past, before he was scarred and dying in a bed. The story of the present mixed with the patient's past and his love affair that tragically changed his life forever.

To be blunt, "The English Patient" is a love story blended with a sweeping epic sensation and it blends magnificently. What I really admired about the love story between Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas was how passionate, how obsessive, how enchanting it was shown on screen. Usually in love stories, such as Minghella's later "Cold Mountain" (2003), the romantic elements seem far more lustful than obsessive to me. Some of the love scenes feature elements that may tend to be associated more with lust than love, but still, because it is so well developed and not rushed and not exploited out of proportion, we can believe that there is a sure, true love between these characters. It reminded me a lot of "Vertigo" (1958) in how well the filmmakers and performers convinced us that these were two actual human beings who truly fell in love with each other.

Performances all around were great. I was especially enthralled by the performance by Juliette Binoche, who took home the Oscar for her performance the following year. I also liked Willem Dafoe playing the sort of cynical, questionable character that he's always quintessential at playing. And of course I can't leave out Fiennes and Scott Thomas and their portrayals of two very passionate lovers.

Despite my enormous enthusiasm for this epic, I would be dishonest if I were to describe it as a perfect film. There are two flaws that I cannot glance over. Number one, it is a little too long and the reason for this is my second complaint, there are a few unnecessary subplots. I was not enchanted or particularly interested with the second love story between Binoche and a bomb specialist played by Naveen Andrews. My research has led me to assume that this plot element comes from the original book and I'm sure it worked perfectly in there, but in the film, it just seems a little…distracting and the relationship between the two characters didn't fascinate me. I was far more interested by Fiennes character and his relationships with his two leading actresses.

Nevertheless, these two flaws are easily forgivable even if they do slow things down a bit. Those put aside, "The English Patient" is an extraordinary achievement of film-making. To me, it was sort of like an insane mix up between "Casablanca" (1942) and "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), two remarkable and better films, and this effective blend proved to be well worth my time. It is a real shame that Anthony Minghella has left us. For he was a truly gifted filmmaker. This is all the evidence anybody needs.


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