Sunday, April 12, 2015

The English Patient

Movie Name: The English Patient
Year of Release: 1996
Director: Anthony Minghella
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas, Willem Dafoe, Naveen Andrews, Colin Firth, Julian Wadham, Jurgen Prochnow, Kevin Whately, Clive Merrison
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Director Anthony Minghella premiered "The English Patient" in 1996 to critical and commercial success, following a discrete career, that was up until that point, more focused on writing than directing. The film is an adaptation of the book by Michael Ondaatje, which won the Booker Prize of 1992. The story takes place in the aftermath of WWII, and introduces us to a survivor of a lethal fire, who is badly scarred, and who is being taken care of by a beautiful nurse. We get to know this patient through numerous flashbacks - his name is Count Almasy, an Hungarian count, who during the 1930s was exploring the Sahara Desert for the Royal Geographic Society. Part of this expedition across the desert includes Geoffrey Clifton and his wife Katherine, who become friends with Almasy. When Geoffrey leaves to explore further areas of the desert on his plane, a relationship emerges between Kaherine and Almasy. This relationship between the two has a tragic development. In parallel with these flashbacks, we also see the relationship of Hana, the nurse, unfold with a young soldier by the name of Kip.
"The English Patient" is a film with an epic scope, and a sense of classic storytelling that makes it feel and be seen like a film from the Hollywood golden age. It drinks a bit of inspiration from David Lean, but also from Sydney Pollack's "Out of Africa". The director successfully manages to create a mosaic of relationships, expanding particularly well on the flashbacks, where Almasy and Katherine slowly get to know each other, and where the film acquires most of its dramatic edge. It's a romantic film that is utterly sold based on the fantastic performances from Ralph Fiennes (quite possibly one the most underrated actors working to this day) and Kristin Scott Thomas. Anthony Minghella also captures the different stories that define the arcs of the supporting characters, namely Hana, Caravaggio and Kip. It benefits from a stunning cinematography from John Seale and a wonderful and alluring score from Gabriel Yared. A beautiful film always worth revisiting.