Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – The English Patient (1996)

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristen Scott Thomas & Colin Firth

Rating 9/10

Sigh. What a romantic film. Not simply in terms of love between people but the landscape, the culture, the romance of history. Though there is much drama and disaster this is actually a movie about life and love and death.

Hungarian Count László Almásy (Fiennes) has suffered horrific burns from a plane crash. After being rescued from the desert, he finds himself in Italy being cared for by French-Canadian nurse, Hana (Binoche). They are holed up in a ruined Tuscan monastery/villa and it is here that the Count remembers his story. This film is really two stories in one: Hana’s and the Count’s.

Flashbacks show Count László in his days as an explorer, a recluse, a member of the International Sand Club (or  England’s Royal Geographical Society). He meets the beautiful Mrs Katharine Clifton (Scott-Thomas) when she joins their camp in the Sahara Desert and they eventually become lovers.

Back at the Tuscan villa, the Count’s health is failing. A stranger arrives who claims to have known László in his former life. He is David Caravaggio (Dafoe) a former Canadian spy who remembers the Count as a traitor and a murderer – two thumbs down! Then Hana starts a romance with Kip (Naveen Andrews), an Indian Sikh in the English army. Stories, stories everywhere.

Tensions rise as the stories dissect and relationships are tested. The war ends as the film reaches its crescendo. There are 2 plane crashes, 6 tragic deaths and 3 or so romances. It’s a lot to take in.

I loved this film. It is like a rosebud gently opening, ever so slowly it reveals itself petal by petal. The scenery is breathtaking and the cinematography, epic. The music, the sand, the history, the love, the passion are addictive. Though I had seen it before, there are so many elements that I had forgotten.

I must say that it is female friendly war movie. And as I said at the beginning, it is incredibly romantic. I love the scene where Kip takes Hana to the church and with flare in hand he swings her gently around the walls of the church to showing off the beauty of the murals. Ah. Sweet.

For obvious reasons it is reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia – it is long, slowly paced and features lots of desert, though this one is much less bloody. Don’t be put off by its length or the pace of this film, it is worth every minute simply because it is an epic that will stay with you forever.

The English Patient Trivia:

  • Budget – $27 Million
  • Won Oscars for: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Binoche), Best Art Direction/Set Direction (Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan), Best Cinematography (John Seale), Best Costume Design (Ann Roth), Best Director (Anthony Minghella), Best Film Editing (Walter Murch), Best Original Score (Gabriel Yared) and last but not least, Best Sound (Walter Murch, Mark Berger, David Parker and Christopher Newman).
  • Wanna know how Kristin Scott Thomas got the role of Katharine? She wrote a letter to Anthony Minghella and said ‘I am K in your film’ – gutsy broad.
  • Fox dumped the film just before shooting was to begin because it wanted a better known actress such as Demi Moore in the lead role. Lucky for all waiting in Italy, Miramax agreed to fund it. In your face Fox!
  • Tourists were used to play the part of Germans shooting at the Count’s plane as they couldn’t afford any other extras.
  • In my fav scene, the rope Hana is sitting on actually provided the electricity and ‘smoke’ for her flare.
  • The 1st film to win Best Picture which had been edited digitally.

Oh my! Next week we head out to sea with Titanic starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Hold onto your hats!


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