Projections - Movie Reviews

The English Patient The English Patient

This story is morbid, dark and exhilarating all at the same time.  It is difficult to review in that it is a brilliantly written screenplay which is well acted, but it is also difficult to discover the euphoria amidst the tragedy.

The story is set in Africa and Italy during and before World War II.  Ralph Fiennes is Almasy, the English patient, Juliette Binoche is Hanna, the nurse who cares for Almasy, Willem Dafoe is Caravaggio, a tortured diplomat and Kristin Scott Thomas is Katharine, the unfaithful wife who has a torrid love affair with Almasy.

The film begins at the end and is told in a series of flashbacks.  Almasy's plane crashes in the desert and he is horribly burned.  His desert friends save him but he is not expected to survive due to the severe damage that has occurred to his body.  He is the English patient and that is of importance to him because at one critical point in the story, he is mistaken for a German spy and prevented from reaching his lover Katharine in her need.

His burned body is difficult to watch and his deep breathing makes it clear to his doctors that his life is near the end.  Nurse Hanna (Binoche) agrees to stay with him in an abandoned Italian monastery and care for him until his death.  Caravaggio arrives shortly after the patient and his nurse and stays with them.

What is powerful in this story is the effect of the international war on the lives of the two lovers and her husband.  They are neutral players to an extent.  They make geographic maps and see little of political boundaries, but the boundaries and conflicts destroy their hope for happiness.  Caravaggio is somewhat of a mystery initially, he is also a victim of the same crisis the lovers faced.  Hanna is made numb by the random death of acquaintances and she diverts her pain through a love affair with Kip (Naveen Andrews), an Indian bomb expert who is working near the monastery defusing unexploded bombs and mines.

This is not an exciting film by today's standards.  Its excitement is found in the twisting, turning plot, the pain, and the unending love between Katharine and Almasy.  There could be Academy Award performances in this work but that may depend on public acceptance of the film.

Those who enjoy thoughtful films will be impressed, others may find it depressing or even dull.  No matter what, it will haunt your mind long after it ends.

The English Patient

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