Monday, September 7, 2009

Best British Films: 25. The English Patient

The English Patient is a poetic film, a tragic love story and an experience. I fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it. I was 15 or so, and probably didn't understand all of the movie's themes fully, but I knew I had watched something great, a work of art that I wouldn't soon forget.

1996 was a great year for film, ushering in the Coen brothers' great Fargo, Cameron Crowe's slick Jerry Maguire, and the indie wonder Trainspotting. The English Patient was the best of them, according to AMPAS.

The film follows a horribly scarred amnesiac mapmaker being cared for by an Allied nurse during World War II. A story of an intense love affair with the charming and beautiful wife of a colleague begins to unfold in a series of flashbacks. The passionate romance is not all there is to the man's past, which we learn when an intelligence agent arrives with knowledge of some shameful secrets.

The English Patient is ripe with visual splendor. Breathtaking cinematography, art direction, and costumes abound. The film's images make you feel deeply, a rare accomplishment I always appreciate. The desert setting is a canvas, and director Anthony Minghella paints on it with large, evocative strokes of genius and truth.

The performances in the film are brilliant, and somehow remain engaging despite an overlong running time. Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas are perfect as the practical people who are drawn into a passionate affair, and Juliette Binoche is marvelous as the nurse, Hana, who scrubs at the English patient's wounds and burned skin in desperate attempts to cleanse her own emotional war wounds.

The English Patient is a triumphant cinematic treasure that is, in my opinion, Minghella's finest work. A stunning, epic romantic adventure. ****/4


Ellen said...

I think I like The Talented Mr. Ripley a little more than The English Patient, but it's still a beautiful movie.

Kristin Scott Thomas is so incredible. I'd love to see her win an Oscar someday.

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