Thursday, October 6, 2011
ENGLISH PATIENT, THE
(November 1996, U.S.)
You wanna know how silly the human brain can work itself sometimes? Anyone who's seen THE ENGLISH PATIENT knows what a wonderful film it is and that it won best picture of its year, etc., etc., etc. Yet every time I think of that film the first thing that keeps popping into my mind is that episode of SEINFELD where Elaine goes to see THE ENGLISH PATIENT with her boyfriend, she hates it, and as a result of that her boyfriend breaks up with her. I'm sorry, but I just can't help it. That's how fucked up the human brain can be sometimes!
Okay, so now for the film itself. Set before and during World War II, it's a story of love, fate, misunderstanding, healing and redemption. The film depicts a critically burned man, at first known only as "the English patient," who's being looked after by Hana (played by Juliette Binoche), a French-Canadian nurse in an abandoned Italian monastery. The mysterious patient is reluctant to disclose any personal information about himself, but through a series of film flashbacks, we're allowed into his past. It's slowly revealed that he is in fact a Hungarian geographer, Count László de Almásy (played by Ralph Fiennes), who was in the process of making a map of the Sahara Desert, and whose affair with a married English woman, Katharine Clifton (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), ultimately brought about his present situation. Ironically, when the two lovers first meet, he's almost repelled by her presence and seemingly wants nothing to do with her. Is it because she's married or is it because he's incapable of real love? We're never sure. Ultimately, love, erotic passion and personal sacrifice cannot be denied. When Katharine is critically injured in a plane crash and brough to a cave by her lover, his undying affection for her is brought to the test when he must walk through the scorching desert to find help and then escape his enemies in order to return to her. By the film's end, all principle characters have found reconciliation, including Katharine and Count László, even in their own deaths.
Shot on location in Italy and the deserts of Tunisia, the exterior cinematography of the film (particularly the deserts) could easily be compared to David Lean's work in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. That's a pretty bold comparison and I don't suppose there'll ever be another film that could be compared to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in that respect. THE ENGLISH PATIENT, however, under the late Anthony Minghella's direction, can at best, be deemed a very worthy homage. It's a film you should definitely see more than once. The first time you may accumulate many questions. The second time you're likely to get some answers.
THE ENGLISH PATIENT won the Oscar for best picture of 1996.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Hana: "There's a man downstairs. He brought us eggs. He might stay."
Count Laszlo: "Why? Can he lay eggs?"
Hana: "He's Canadian."
Laszlo: "Why are people always so happy when they collide with someone from the same place? What happened in Montreal when you passed a man in the street? Did you invite him to live with you?"