Winner of nine Academy Awards and almost every critic's heart, The English Patient (based on Michael Ondaatje's prizewinning novel of love and loss during World War II) is one of the most acclaimed films of modern times. H... more »ana, a nurse (Juliette Binoche), tends to an archaeologist (Ralph Fiennes) who has been burnt to a crisp in a plane crash. As their relationship intensifies, he flashes back to his overwhelming passion for a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas). Meanwhile, Hana begins a new romance with a man who defuses bombs (Naveen Andrews) and Willem Dafoe almost steals the show as the thumbless thief Caravaggio. The intricately layered flashback narrative, sounding the depths of the lovers' hearts, improves with repeated viewings.« less
Daniel A. (Daniel) from EUGENE, OR Reviewed on 2/8/2010...
Likely the best of Minghella's films. This is intriguing and easily sustains the length. I didn't notice a dull performance in the cast.
Sherri H. (MrsH) from ROME, GA Reviewed on 12/16/2007...
If you ever feel the need to watch a fantastically romantic and stunningly beautiful movie that makes you want to cry - this is that movie. Have a tissue ready ladies.
J. Blilie | Twin Cities, MN | 02/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this movie. In fact, it was the first movie I ever purchased (VHS) many moons ago. I first saw it in a theater with a hard-bitten financial-analyst friend of mine (male, straight). I'm an engineer (male, straight). We are not weepy types. We were both moved very much by this movie. I don't agree at all that this is a chick-flick.
This is a movie aimed at adults. If you want: constant action, simplistic plot, black-and-white relationships, car crashes, shoot outs (OK, it does have some crashes and shooting), then you probably want to look elsewhere. Casablanca, to which this movie has been contrasted, (though a good movie) could fall into the category of propaganda: produced during WWII, everyone conformed to the main line. Real people had real lives going on during WWII.
I find that the negative reviews of this movie fall into two categories: 1) those who are (terribly) morally offended by extra-marital affairs, and 2) those that can't follow a complex plot and set of characters. If you can see beyond those issues, and you like a good, complex tragedy, you should enjoy this movie. The first type of critic needs to grow up an realize that people are more complex than black and white caricatures. John Wayne was realistic?!? The fact that both lovers die, painfully, in the end isn't enough tragic retribution for you? Some folks will never be satisfied until everyone agrees with them and conforms. For the second type of critic: best to stick with action movies.
This is a wonderful movie. The cinematography is gorgeous, music is fantastic, story is complex and compelling, the characters diverse and engaging. Everyone I know liked this movie a lot. Two love stories, plenty of tragedy and twists. Great actors and acting. The story is revealed slowly through flashbacks, it's a great dramatic device and works very well. I am a voracious reader and I have read the book as well: I prefer the movie (I can only say this about one other novel/movie: Dr. Zhivago). Like I said, everyone I know liked it very much. Enjoy."
A Beautiful Painting
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 09/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This rare and beautiful film, based on a book that is felt as much as read, transcends the medium to become art. Painted on a vast desert canvas with deep rich oils, its beauty is felt as much as seen. This film will find your heart and remain there forever. If love had a face, it would look like this.
Director Anthony Minghella's screenplay shifts the center of Michael Ondaatje's story slightly in order to capture on film the essence of his beautiful prose. Ondaatje's novel is one of poetic beauty, a potrait of a rose beneath the water's surface. The film brings that beautiful rose out of the water and into the sunlight. The book and the film are so deeply intertwined you can not watch this film without wanting to read the book, nor can you read the book without wanting to see the film. The story itself centers around three people either in love with, or haunted by ghosts they have loved and lost to war.
Juliette Binoche gives an Oscar winning performance as Hana, a kind nurse with a gentle spirit but a damaged heart. She latches onto the burned and charred body of a man known only as the English patient, and ends up caring for him in a shell ravaged Italian villa in Tuscany where she feeds him plums and reads to him. When a man named Caravaggio with scars of his own arrives, the mystery of who the English patient really is begins to unfold via flashbacks. In the present, Hana begins to let her heart heal when she falls in love with a Sikh who disarms bombs left by the Germans.
It is the memories of the English patient, however, which are at the heart of this film. Ralph Fiennes gives a subtle performance as the introspective Almasy, part of an international expedition mapping an unending desert with both the romance, and the danger of the sea. Kristin Scott Thomas is wonderful as Katherine Clifton, the stunningly beautiful and enigmatic wife of a fellow mapper. An instant but unspoken attraction between she and Almasy finally becomes too unbearable to ignore and the affair that holds the key to the mystery surrounding the English patient begins.
This is one of the most romantic films ever made and is filled with the joy and anguish of love and war. It shows that while war may create logistical lines that can not be crossed, the heart has no boundaries. Anyone who has ever experienced a love of such emotional intensity and physical longing that love and need became one will understand the love affair of Katherine and Almasy.
Cinematographer John Seale has given this film a grace and beauty seldom seen on film. A haunting score full of mystery and romance from Gabriel Yard accompany scenes never to be forgotten, and will not be described here in case you have not yet seen them. Director Anthony Minghella explores the mystery of the desert, and the heart, which according to the "The Histories" by Herodotus, a book the English patient clings to, is an organ of fire.
If there is but one ounce of romance in your soul, you will love "The English Patient." It is a well charted and romantic map of the human heart, as wide and treacherous as the unending desert. This will be one of your favorite films once you see it. I promise."
Ownership, belonging and an earth without maps.
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 05/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the publication of Michael Ondaatje's Booker-Prize-winning "English Patient," conventional wisdom soon held that the novel, while a masterpiece of fiction, was entirely untransferable to any other medium: too intricately layered seemed its narrative structure; too significant its protagonists' inner life; too rich its symbolism. Then along came Anthony Minghella, who reportedly read it in a single sitting and was so disoriented afterwards that he didn't even remember where he was - but who called producer Paul Zaentz the very next morning and talked him into bringing the novel to the screen. Two major studios and several fights over the casting of key roles later, the result were an astonishing nine Oscars (Best Picture, Director - Anthony Minghella -, Supporting Actress - Juliette Binoche -, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design, Original Score and Sound), as well as scores of other awards.
"The English Patient" is an epic tale of love and loss; of ownership, belonging and the bars erected thereto. It unites the stories of five people: Hungarian count Laszlo de Almasy (Ralph Fiennes), mistaken as English by a British Army medical unit in Italy after professing to have forgotten his identity; Hana (Juliette Binoche), Almasy's Canadian nurse; Katherine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas), his erstwhile lover; Kip (Naveen Andrews), a Sikh sapper and Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), an ex-spy and thief. All outsiders, they are struggling to come to terms with their lives: Almasy, on his deathbed, reflects back to his life as a North African explorer and his affair with Katherine; Hana believes herself cursed because everybody she cares for dies (in the movie her fiance and her best friend; in the novel her fiance, her father and her unborn baby), Katherine is taken to an all-male company of explorers in Cairo by her husband Geoffrey (Colin Firth), Kip, like Hana, is far away from home (the only Indian in an otherwise British and Italian environment) and Caravaggio lost his livelihood after his thumbs were cut off in captivity by the Germans, on a sadistic officer (Juergen Prochnow)'s orders.
Like the novel, the movie's story largely unfolds in flashbacks: After Hana convinces her superiors to let her stay and nurse Almasy in an abandoned Tuscan villa, she and new arrival Caravaggio, who holds Almasy responsible for his fate, extract the details of his life in Africa and the truth about Katherine, Geoffrey and the events uniting him with the Cliftons and Caravaggio from Almasy in a series of conversations. But at the same time, the story is anchored in the present by Hana's growing attachment to Kip, which shines a different light on the themes also driving Almasy and his relationship with Katherine. The film's outstanding cast, which in key roles also includes Julian Wadham as Almasy's friend Madox and Kevin Whately as Kip's sergeant Hardy carries the story marvelously: Probably their biggest award loss(besides Fiennes's and Scott Thomas's Oscar and other "best lead" nominations and Minghella's screenplay Oscar nomination) was the 1997 SAG ensemble award, which instead went to "The Birdcage."
In his screenplay Minghella made several changes vis-a-vis the novel; the biggest of these doubtlessly a shift in focus from Hana, Caravaggio and Kip to Almasy and Katherine, and the fact that the film is much more explicit about Almasy's identity than the novel. Both were wise choices: Hana's inner demons in the novel are largely exactly that - *inner* demons, moreover, substantially grounded in the past and thus even more difficult to portray than Almasy's and Katherine's. Similarly, once the focus had moved to the latter couple, Kip's back story would have extended the movie without significantly advancing it; and the same is true for the intersections between Caravaggio's path and that of Hana's father. Secondly, mistaken *national* identity is overall more central to Almasy's character than identity as such; so the novel's intricate mystery about his persona might well have proven unnecessarily distracting in the movie's context. Indeed, once Almasy had become the story's greatest focus, much of its symbolism virtually even required that there be no real doubt about his identity.
But in all core respects, Minghella remained faithful to Ondaatje's novel; particularly regarding its profoundly impressionistic imagery, as shown, for example, in the curves formed by the Northern African desert's endless sand dunes, which in John Seale's magnificent and justly awardwinning cinematography resemble those of a woman's body as much as they do in Ondaatje's language, thus uniting Almasy's two greatest loves in a single symbol.
Doubtlessly the most important image is that of maps: Guides to unknown places like those drawn by Almasy and his friends during their explorations, but also tools of ownership like the cartography of Northern Africa made possible by Geoffrey Clifton's photos, and ultimately symbols of betrayal, as Almasy surrenders his maps to the Germans in exchange for a plane after he feels deserted by the British. And while Kip, who spends all day searching for bombs but wants to be found at night, guides Hana to himself by a series of tiny signposts in the form of oil lamps - but still never tries to expect her, in order not to get too much attached to her - Almasy, the perpetual loner who declares that he hates ownership more than anything else, gets so attached to Katherine that he claims her suprasternal notch as his exclusive property and later refers to her as his wife, which due to her marriage to Geoffrey she couldn't truly be in life and could only symbolically become in death. - The final word on maps, belonging and ownership, however, is part of Katherine's legacy to Almasy (and I still prefer the novel's language here):
"I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature, not just label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. ... All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps."
Also recommended: The English Patient Secret Life of Laszlo Almasy Wind, Sand and Stars Night Flight Anil's Ghost: A Novel The End of the Affair Up at the Villa Chocolat (Miramax Collector's Series) The Histories (Penguin Classics)"
Old School Passion & Filmmaking
The JuRK | Our Vast, Cultural Desert | 01/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm one of the people who was completely taken with THE ENGLISH PATIENT when I saw it in theatres, but was also amused when Elaine Benis on "Seinfeld" goofed on it later. Or, should I say, goofed on everyone who loved it.
The non-linear story structure, the superb acting, the gorgeous photography, the unfolding mystery of what happened to the doomed couple--all of it hit me just right. While other people complained at the film's slow pace, I was soaking up the period details and authentic locations. I played the soundtrack CD for months afterward (and still do sometimes), finding myself lost in the distant and sometimes-haunting music.
There were so many terrible movies in the 1990s, just mere product crafted by committee and focus groups, that the intimate--though tragic--feel of this story felt very personal and real. You know the couple played by Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas are in BIG trouble from the moment they meet. Just watch their eyes and expressions. Allowing a passion to spread like that has major implications on everyone around them and, in this case, also has major implicactions on a world on the brink of war.
(One footnote: the church I attend put out a list of Top Ten Reasons to Boycott Disney shortly after the film came out. Perhaps scraping for a reason to fill out the list, number 10 was "Boycott Disney because it funds Miramax, which produced THE ENGLISH PATIENT, a film that glorifies adultery." Huh? How anyone can watch this film and believe that these characters, tormented by guilt and confusion, indulging in a passion that not only kills them all but also contributes to Nazi victories in Africa, completely escapes me.)"
Beautiful, Absolutely Beautiful
kz. | 06/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not really sure why this movie's being panned as severely as it is. Maybe the dense plot put off those looking for an action epic. Maybe the passionate but ultimately destructive relationship put off those looking for a formulaic happy-ending fluff romance. Maybe these people just don't like thinking during movies, because this movie doesn't lay everything out for you and you have to work to figure out character motivations, plot, symbolism, etc. But to me, all those things that this movie isn't only adds to its richness and beauty.The story is told half in flashbacks, half in present tense, with the beginning a sort of bridge between the two: Story A, Juliette Binoche's nurse caring for the mysterious English Patient, begins at the end of Story B, where Ralph Fiennes (on an expedition in the desert) falls madly in love with a married woman (Thomas). Later, Story C also interweaves with A and B, telling of Willem Dafoe's bitter thief and his connection with the English Patient. This storytelling device is probably what makes the movie brilliant (although the acting, romance and cinematography are hardly to be treated lightly). Despite technical brilliance, it is The English Patient's examination of emotions that gives it its heart; the sheer passion of the movie makes me cry every time I see it. And the characters are fascinating, much like Anthony Minghella's later work, The Talented Mr Ripley. No one here can be called a caricature, with the possible exception of Katherine; while you may not understand everything they do, part of the fun is piecing together their actions into complex individuals.You should be warned that you do see a bit more of both Thomas and Binoche than you perhaps would like to, and Almasy and Katherine DO engage in adultery, but if you can overcome any objections to either of those issues and keep your mind open, you may be as moved as I was. The English Patient is a heart-breaking, passionate, powerful, dense, confusing, mesmerizing, extraordinary, and simply beautiful movie."