The English PatientNovember 15, 1996
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.
Release Year: 1996
Rating: 7.3/10 (73,067 voted)
Critic's Score: 87/100
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe
Beginning in the 1930's, "The English Patient" tells the story of Count Almásy who is a Hungarian map maker employed by the Royal Geographical Society to chart the vast expanses of the Sahara Desert along with several other prominent explorers. As World War II unfolds, Almásy enters into a world of love, betrayal, and politics that is later revealed in a series of flashbacks while Almásy is on his death bed after being horribly burned in a plane crash.
Writers: Michael Ondaatje, Anthony Minghella
Count Laszlo de Almásy
Kristin Scott Thomas
In memory, love lives forever.
Release Date: 15 November 1996
Filming Locations: Cinecittà Studios, Cinecittà, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $278,439
(17 November 1996)
Did You Know?
Both Naveen Andrews and Kevin Whately had to learn to ride motorcycles for the film. There was some concern that Andrews would not pass his test before filming began but he completed his course successfully.
The headset Kip wears as he sweeps the road for mines disappears and reappears between shots.
[being carried up the stairs]
There was a Prince, who was dying, and he was carried up the tower at Pisa so he could die with a view of the Tuscan Hills. Am I that Prince?
Because you're leaning? No, you're just on an angle. You're too heavy!
A Magnificent Motion Picture
In a style reminiscent of the best of David Lean, this romantic love story
sweeps across the screen with epic proportions equal to the vast desert
regions against which it is set. It's a film which purports that one does
not choose love, but rather that it's love that does the choosing,
regardless of who, where or when; and furthermore, that it's a matter of the
heart often contingent upon prevailing conditions and circumstances. And
thus is the situation in `The English Patient,' directed by Anthony
Minghella, the story of two people who discover passion and true love in the
most inopportune of places and times, proving that when it is predestined,
love will find a way.
It's WWII; flying above the African desert, Hungarian Count Laszlo de Almasy
(Ralph Fiennes) is shot down, his biplane mistaken for an enemy aircraft.
And though he survives the crash, he is severely burned. To his great good
fortune, however, he is rescued by a tribe of nomads and winds up in a
hospital. But existing conditions are governed by circumstances of war, and
Almasy soon becomes one of many patients being transported via convoy to a
different facility. Upon reaching Italy, he is too weak and ill to continue
on, and a Canadian nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche), volunteers to stay behind
with him at an abandoned monastery.
Hana soon discovers that her charge is something of a man of mystery, as
Almasy remembers nothing of his past, and not even his own name. Thought to
be English, the only clues pointing to who he is are contained in a book
found in his possession after the crash, but even they are as cryptic as
Hana's patient. Slowly, however, under prompting from Hana, Almasy begins
to remember bits and pieces of his life, and his story begins to unfold.
And his memory is helped along even more by the appearance of a mysterious
stranger named Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), who suspects that Almasy is the
man he's been looking for– a man with whom he wants to settle a score.
But, burned beyond recognition, Almasy may or may not be that man.
Meanwhile, Almasy's memories continue to surface; memories of a woman he
loved, Katherine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas)– as well as memories of
Katherine's husband, Geoffrey (Colin Firth). And, crippled in mind and body
as he is, those memories become the only thing left to which he can cling
with any hope at all, even as his life seems to be slipping farther away
with each passing moment.
In addition to directing, Anthony Minghella also wrote the screenplay for
this film, which he adapted from the novel by Michael Ondaatje. The result
is an epic saga presented in the tradition of Lean's `Doctor Zhivago' and
`Lawrence of Arabia'; a magnificent film that fills the screen and the
senses with unprecedented grandeur and beauty. Simply put, Minghella's film
is genius realized; crafted and delivered with a poetic perfection, watching
it is like watching a Monet come to life. From the opening frames,
Minghella casts a hypnotic spell over his audience that is binding and
transporting, with a story that has an emotional beauty that equals the
engagingly stunning and vibrant images brought to life by John Seale's
remarkable cinematography; images that virtually fill the screen as well as
the soul of the viewer. In every sense, this is a film of rare eloquence,
with a striking emotional capacity that facilitates an experience that is
truly transcendental. Nominated in twelve categories, it deservedly
received a total of nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Director,
Supporting Actress (Binoche) and Cinematography.
If one had to choose a single word to describe the `essence' of this film,
it would be `excellence.' Even an extraordinary film, however, does not
receive nine Oscars without performances that are extraordinary in kind; and
the performances given by Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas here
transcend the term `Oscar worthy.' Nominated for Best Actor for his
portrayal of Almasy (Geoffrey Rush was awarded the gold for `Shine'),
Fiennes has never been better, achieving an emotional depth with his
character that is nearly palpable. Private and introspective, Almasy is not
by his very nature an individual to whom the audience will be able to form
an intimate connection; Fiennes, however, finds a way to open that emotional
door just enough to let you in, enough so that you taste the honest passion
welling up within him. And it works. Almasy does not seek your friendship;
he will, however, gain your compassion.
Kristen Scott Thomas, too, received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress
(Frances McDormand received the award for `Fargo') for her portrayal of
Katherine, a woman whose stoic countenance masks the emotional conflict
raging within her, born of the forbidden passion that enslaves her and yet
to which she gives herself willingly, casting off her shackles of repression
to embrace a love so strong it threatens to consume her. The reserve
Katherine must maintain evokes the empathy of the audience, as Scott Thomas
successfully mines the emotional depths of her character to the greatest
possible effect. It's the kind of performance that draws you in and holds
you fast, taking you as it does beyond that curtain of hypocrisy that
dictates what must be if only for the sake of appearances, and allows you to
experience a true sense of unbridled passion. Understated and shaded with
subtlety, it's terrific work by Kristin Scott Thomas.
Binoche gives a stunning, affecting performance, as well, as the kindhearted
nurse, Hana; it is her humanity, in fact, which defines love in it's purest
sense and offers a balanced perspective of it within the context of the
film. Her relationship with Kip (Naveen Andrews) affords us a glimpse of
passion of another kind, which contrasts effectively with the intensity of
that between Almasy and Katherine. `The English Patient' is a film that
will move you and fill you emotionally; one you will not want to see end.