The English Patient (1996) – Anthony Minghella


Minghella brings forth a top notch cast in his adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s beautiful novel (one I remember reading, and being stunned by how closely the images in the film matched those in my mind from when I read it), which is the final recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my viewing of Casablanca.

Ralph Fiennes is joined by Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Naveen Andrews, Jurgen Prochnow and Colin Firth in a film that walked away with 9 Oscars, Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Binoche, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Score, and Best Actor for Fiennes.

Fiennes is Count Laszlo, who was badly burned in a plane crash as World War II comes to an end. He is tended by a young nurse, Hana (Binoche), and she, and the viewer slowly discover his past, through a series of flashbacks, including an ill-fated relationship with Katharine Clifton (Thomas).

This gorgeously shot film, stunning in the images it brings to the screen, doesn’t rush it’s storytelling, clocking in at over two and a half hours long.

When Hana’s sweetheart and and friends are stripped away from her, she seemingly has nothing left and clings to the care of her patients, especially, the unknown burn victim, who is dying. She arranges for the two of them to be left in an abandoned monastery, so she can watch over him, and ease his last few days.


As her story unfolds in concert with his, including a blossoming relationship with Kip (Andrews), a bomb specialist. Things are complicated by the arrival of Caravaggio (Dafoe), a thief working for the Intelligence Services who believes Hana’s patient aided the Germans.

Gabriel Yared’s score, couples beautifully with the film’s images, and makes for a simply stunning experience, gorgeously romantic, the costumes (the 40s were amazing), the setting and location, the performances, it’s a heady mix, and wonderfully, perfectly balanced.

Fiennes, along with the rest of the cast are at the top of their game, and Minghella’s script allows for all of them to have beautiful moments, as the film unwinds languorously, taking the viewer into its embrace, as we watch the characters fall, succumb, and suffer against the beautiful backdrops of the story, and the presence of war.

The appellations, stunning, beautiful, romantic, all are applicable, and used to describe this film, with good reason, and the film is filled with moments and performances that encapsulate them, but the sequence with Hana and Kip looking at the frescoes is probably my favourite, well that along with the walk Laszlo takes carrying Katharine. Just wow.

The characters, their motivations, are all flawed, real, pained, and honest, and as the secrets of the story are laid out before the viewer, it twists the heart, wringing emotions from us as we relate to the characters, their actions, and their fates.

An engrossing and captivating film.


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