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Love will tear us apart


Touching love story, beautiful desert scenery, well acted

Very sad, jumps around a bit, perhaps a thinking persons film

Recommendable Yes:

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Special Effects

How does it compare to similar films?


How does it compare to others by the same director?Outstanding

Value for MoneyExcellent

What format are you reviewing?Film only

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If you enjoy a good heart breaking love story then look no further than The English Patient.

I bought the English Patient on DVD at Sainsbury's a few weeks ago. I had just finished the book and thought I'd quite like to see what the film was like. I purchased it in a 3 for £30 deal.
The book I read because it's on my Booker Prize winners list that I'm slowly working my way through this year. I have to be honest, although I liked the idea of it, I didn't enjoy it very much and had to force myself to finish it.
Having now watched the film I would like to re-read the book just to see how the director Anthony Minghella managed to create such a masterpiece from the same story I found dull on the page.

Overview of the story
If you have never heard of The English Patient then the following should help. The story is set at the end of the Second World War, in Italy, and for the most part moves between 1944 and up to two years before hand. The main character is a man burnt to within an inch of his life and on death's door. This man is so badly burnt he has no lips, no real hair, and his face is merely a mask. This man is the patient of a nurse called Hana. Hana has seen so much pain and sorrow during the course of the war that she really is at her wits end. She's had enough. She decides that instead of moving the poor burnt man all over the country to different hospitals as the army moves, she will take him to an old monastery and care for him there, alone.

The story focuses on Hana caring for the patient in this isolated place in the middle of nowhere. As time progresses we learn more about the man, although never what his name is.
Through a series of flashbacks we learn how this man was originally working in the Sahara desert charting the area for the Royal Geographic Society. Through his work he meets the wife of a college, Katherine Clifton. To begin with there seems to be a bit of edginess' between the patient and Katherine. However as time goes by they become lovers and we learn more about them as characters.

There are supporting characters who play a part in us learning more about the patient, the character of David Caravaggio who mysteriously turns up at the monastery, and stays there stealing supplies of morphine and making remarks about the past of the patient.
The secondary love story of the film is that of Hana and a sapper called Kip, a Sikh from the army who works as a bomb disposal expert.

The bulk of the story is taken up with establishing who the patient is and why Caravaggio suspects him of terrible things.

Ralph Fiennes .... Count Laszlo de Almásy ( The Patient)
Juliette Binoche .... Hana
Willem Dafoe .... David Caravaggio
Kristin Scott Thomas .... Katharine Clifton
Naveen Andrews .... Kip
Colin Firth .... Geoffrey Clifton
Julian Wadham .... Madox
Jürgen Prochnow .... Major Muller
Kevin Whately .... Hardy
Clive Merrison .... Fenelon-Barnes
Nino Castelnuovo .... D'Agostino
Hichem Rostom .... Fouad
Peter Rühring .... Bermann
Geordie Johnson .... Oliver
Torri Higginson .... Mary

The main love scenes between the patient, at this point whole and unburnt, and Katherine are in my opinion spell binding. I haven't seen a film in a long time that has made me feel the way watching those scenes did. There is a fatalistic nature to them that makes you realise nothing good can come of this relationship. The nature of obsession is well documented in this film.

Ralph Finnes and Kristen Scott Thomas show completely the mixture of the lust and despair that the pair give in to despite the guilt they both feel. Finnes in particular is in my view outstanding. The character he plays is worldly yet has no power to resist the love he feels for Scott Thomas. Watching them you feel at once the great passion they share, the chemistry is amazing frankly. The fact they both have cut glass accents and everything is all darling this and that only adds to it.

That this story is set in the desert and is where they fall in love shapes their affair. If I wanted to analyse it on another level I'd say that the desert is supposed to be a form of pathetic fallacy, at the start of their affair there is a sand storm that rises up out of nowhere and buries everything in its path, including the ill fated lovers. At the end, when the patient goes back to the cave to find his lover, the desert is still and silent, reflecting the mood at this time.

A mention has to be given to Colin Firth's betrayed husband Geoffrey. While he doesn't have a lot of lines the scenes showing his growing awareness of the affair and reaction to it are all loaded with feeling. I personally couldn't help feel that the love he had with his wife would never have endured anyway, in his own words, they had been like brother and sister their whole lives, perhaps if not Finnes, his wife would have eventually betrayed him through boredom.


There are some wonderful moments in the film such as the development of the relationship between Hana and Kip, and I won't say too much more for fear of telling you the whole film.

Through Kip we see explored in brief detail, although the book goes into this a lot more, his feelings of isolation at being the only Indian in the bomb disposal squad, the jokes that he has had to endure and mentioned in the film comments like ' Kamasutra' and 'do you twist the ball at cricket?'
One of the main themes in the love stories of The English Patient, is the outsider, Hana for her failed loves of the past, Kip because of his nationality, the patient, because of his past and personality, Caravaggio for his secrets and shames, and finally Katherine because of the marriage in which she feels trapped.


Although the war is drawing to a close during the main time frame in this story, the flash backs show the effects of the war on the different characters in the film. Also a theme is the paranoia of the time about nationality and the way that people who weren't obviously British were seen as a threat, possible enemies or viewed as likely to be in collaboration with the Germans.

Music and Scenery
The scenery of the film is breathtaking, from the scenes of the desert to the Italian countryside. Visually very enjoyable. You can see the work of the Director has the same hall marks in this way as Captain Corellis Mandolin, and The Talented Mr Ripley, both of which have the same landscape being a big part of the story and informing the nature of the action.

The sound track to the movie was very appropriate in my view; the piece I liked most was the Hungarian song that Finnes plays for Scott Thomas in his hotel room. The way that certain records are played, such as 'cheek to cheek' by Ella Fitzgerald, in the room of the English Patient contrasts sharply the old life he led with his current situation.

Film Details
Released in 1996

Director - Anthony Minghella

160 minutes running time

Certification - 15

Winner of 9 Oscars

Although I am only reviewing the film I can tell you that the DVD is available on Amazon for £5.97

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

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Comments about this review »

eve6kicksass 12.07.2007 00:47

You know, I saw this film opening night back in 1996; I was entralled and captivated, and it even made me cry. I kept telling everyone that the Oscars better give this Best Picture...they did, along with 8 other oscars. Excellent review there of a powerful film! Chris x

Hydra101 05.05.2007 16:10

Great film, great review!

TeenyB 24.08.2006 23:01

Great review on one of my all time favourite films. Another to add to my list of must-watch-over-bank-holiday-if-the-weather-is-naff films :-) Tina xx

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This review of The English Patient (Special Edition) (DVD) has been rated:

"exceptional" by (10%):

  1. mark-southside
  2. mshah786uk
  3. Sal4Mike

and 4 other members

"very helpful" by (90%):

  1. Jeeves42
  2. eve6kicksass
  3. Hydra101

and 61 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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