Saturday, August 31, 2013

913. The English Patient (1996)

Running Time: 162 minutes
Directed By: Anthony Minghella
Written By: Anthony Minghella, from novel by Michael Ondaatje
Main Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Kristen Scott Thomas, Willem Dafoe, Juliette Binoche, Naveen Andrews
Click here to view the trailer


Oh "The English Patient", how I've dreaded thee. Much like Elaine Benes in the Seinfeld episode entitled "The English Patient", I've never understood the hype or the nine Academy Awards behind this epic 1996 film. However, I'm here to tell you that today I had a slight awakening and was actually able to find SOME redeeming qualities in the movie.

The plot is long and takes 2 1/2 hours for the filmmakers to get through, but I'll try to take only a few minutes away from you to recap it. The film is set during World War II and begins with a severely burned man being cared for by a nurse, Hana (Binoche). The burned man is also suffering from amnesia and can't remember anything about himself, including his name. After she finds out her husband has died in battle and watches her best friend drive over a land mine, Hana decides to take the burned man to a secluded area and care for him, so he no longer has to be moved. The two end up in an abandoned Italian monastery where the burned man's past begins to come back to him and be revealed to the viewers. It turns out that the burned man is named Count Laszlo Almasy (Fiennes), a cartographer, who was mapping the Sahara Desert prior to the start of WWII. Along with his partner Madox, the two are joined in the desert by Katherine (Thomas) and Geoffrey Clifton (Colin Firth). The Count becomes taken by Katherine to the point that the two end up having an affair, one night during a sandstorm. Later, Katherine ends the affair, but the Count cannot bear to be away from Katherine and their relationship is rekindled. The film bounces back and forth between the present day, with the Count being tended to by Hana and the past; the tale of Katherine and Laszlo.

After doing a little research on this movie, I've found that, in fact, it is one of the most detested of all the Best Picture winners. Perhaps it's just people being persuaded by the Seinfeld episode, but there seems to be a lot of Elaine's influence on much of the cinematic public, as I've found multiple comments of people trashing the movie and declaring it "boring" and "too long". I'd have to agree with them on the running time, as the film is way too long and had Minghella been able to contain his would be epic inside of two hours and cut the fat off, I think this could've been a blow away picture. As it is, by the end it is obvious that there are bits that just need to be trimmed and lots of unnecessary scenes. I'm of the opinion that every single shot and scene of a film should be essential to driving the plot, developing the characters or being of some value. There are clearly many scenes in "The English Patient" that serve no purpose. I'll also admit that I'm just not the love story type of guy and that I think this film appeals more to women than men, kind of like a much more advanced, poetic and artistic Nicholas Sparks film, minus the barely out of high school actors.


Speaking of the actors, you've got a real crop of great ones here with Ralph Fiennes totally impressing me and making me realize that someday we'll be looking back and remembering him as one of the truly greats of my time. I also can't forget Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe (a favorite of mine), Kristen Scott Thomas and Colin Firth, who all do spectacular things with their characters. It's not hard to see WHY this film won Best Picture, as it just looks like something that would make the Academy start drooling, even though "Fargo" was CLEARLY the better film and better choice that year. It's not a film that made me desperately stare at the clock, even though there were times when it was blatantly obvious that the film was just running far too long. I enjoyed many bits, like the beautiful scene in the sandstorm; the passionate, classy shots of love making and the heartbreaking scene of Laszlo carrying Katherine out of her tomb, her dead body hanging over his arms, him sobbing.

RATING: 6.5/10  Shoulda' been "Fargo" by a long shot, but this wasn't as bad as all that and deserves a look. It's not gonna' blow you away or anything, but it's a "must see" for Academy Awards scholars and even curious Seinfeld fans.


August 31, 2013  8:15pm


  1. And another one I delayed commenting as I tried to come up with a realistic appraisal.
    One of those stunning films that the first time you see are so beautiful you believe they are truly great.. but as time passes, you start to feel you were 'sold' something. You MUST like this, it is lyrical, beautiful, deep, full of meaning.
    At the time.. If I'd been on the academy, I'd have voted for this.. but looking back? Well, which have I watched again? This or Fargo? To be even more brutal, which have I got the DVD of?
    You have one guess.
    Yes, you got it right.

    1. See, I actually had the opposite results, as I HATED the movie the first few times I decided to sit through and liked it much more this go around. Still not enough to get all gaga over it like others though. "Fargo" by a MILE!


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