on 21 August 2006
I just had to write a review for The English Patient as it is my all-time favourite film. I was entranced from the first time I saw it at the cinema with it's beautiful cinematography, sweeping score and accomplished acting - and I can still totally lose myself within the story when seeing it on DVD.
The storyline is that a man (Ralph Fiennes) is pulled from the wreckage of his burning plane in the desert during WW2 and comes to be cared for by an army nurse Hana (Juliette Binoche) who herself is traumatised from losing many close to her. They come to convalesce in an Italian villa and the injured man slowly recalls the past events leading to his crash, in particular his affair with a colleague's wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) and how their betrayals came to have grave consequences. The story is adapted from the Booker winning novel by Michael Ondaatje, and the film itself was showered with oscars for everything except the main actors (they were robbed!).
The director, Anthony Minghella, particularly merits praise - he has an assured eye for how a scene should be composed and the North African desert and Italy have been beautifully filmed. The storyline is very engaging - Minghella wrote the screenplay (which won an oscar...ahem, I mean bafta ;) and, having also read the book, I do feel that his adaptation works particularly well in that he has managed to distil the essence of the book and present it in a format suitable for film rather than just try to portray the book as it was written.
When first released, comparisons were made to Dr Zhivago, and it is easy to see why. The English Patient has the same style of epic story-telling whilst remaining focused on the characters and how they live their lives amidst turbulent times. Highly recommended - and this two disc edition with its commentaries, deleted scenes, making-ofs and interviews is a superior package to the original release which had no extras.
on 13 February 2012
This movie was widely misunderstood on its' release - some found it's fractured story telling confusing, some found it difficult to sympathize with the central couple. Some thought it middle-class and smug - or worse, worthy. Perhaps its' success at the Oscars worked against it by creating false expectations in audiences. Many imagined it was going to be 'Gone With The Wind' crossed with 'Laurence of Arabia', and left the cinema perplexed by it. If that describes your reaction back in 1996, now might be a good time to reacquaint yourself with it - now that the weight of 9 Oscars has dissipated in the intervening years.
But if you loved it from the beginning - as I did - you will greet this release with great enthusiasm. I have no doubt that fans of the movie will relish owning Anthony Minghella's (and cinematographer John Seale's) vision of this wonderful, rich and emotionally resonant story on Blu-Ray. That said, I think buyers should initially temper their expectations as regards the picture quality on this particular Blu-Ray release.
That is not to say it is bad - it is not. It faithfully reproduces the images as originally shot. But many equate film grain as being something that Blu-Ray magically removes - and that all movies should be rendered crystal clear by the new format. Don't make that mistake here - the gritty 'look' of the film in the desert sequences was very deliberately crafted by the director. Conversely, when the story cuts to a different time and location - such as the scenes at the monastery - the gorgeous photography takes on a different texture, capturing the lush greens and golden sunlight of northern Italy, near the end of the second world war.
The Blu-Ray format also offers superior quality audio compared with the DVD. It seems obvious to say it, but this is vital in a dialogue-rich film where words and imagery have equal weight. If you are watching it on a surround system, be warned that the soundtrack is punctuated with anti-aircraft guns, sandstorms, plane crashes, the chink-chink of glass viles, not to mention the heart-breakingly evocative music. I often use the first ten minutes of this disc as a demonstrator, such is the strength of it's imagery and audio mix.
The English Patient has probably found it's most natural home on Blu-Ray, because it is a film that truly rewards repeated viewings - yielding subtle plot points, character traits and grace notes every time it's viewed. Its' main protagonists may not be immediately likeable - but the tragic decisions they make (and the consequences of those decisions on others' lives) create a haunting wartime love story undercut by mistaken national identity. A story that David Lean might have wanted to make, had he been around.
As it was, we were lucky to have the hugely gifted - and greatly missed - Anthony Minghella to adapt the novel and commit it to celluloid. He went on to make three more feature films before he died (Talented Mr Riply, Cold Mountain and Breaking & Entering), but - as good as they were - 'Patient' is his greatest and most enduring film.
on 10 January 2005
I expected not to enjoy this film and was surprised to find that I love it. Having read the book first is usually a set up for a fall as the characters are not how you imagined them and it only serves to irritate. However, a fantastic cast ensures that this is not the case and my personal vote goes to Juliette Binoche who is wonderful.
It is one of these fims which begins with the ending and then puts the story together piece by piece, a format I am very taken by. It is the story of an adulterous relationship that ends in disaster. I am entirely convinced by Fiennes as Count Almazy and Scott-Thomas as Katharine Clifton but prefer the touching nursing scenes with Binoche.
My favourite bit is the little candles and the church largely due to the music. It puts a huge smile on my face and brings a tear to my eye - yes, I know it's completely unrealistic but I just don't care and admit to occasionally watching that scene on its own when I am fed up with the reality of relationships.
This is escapism at its best and I can't recommend it stongly enough. Its perfect for those who usually find romantic movies too schmaltzy and pathetic.
When I saw this film, I thought it was one of the best romantic epics I had seen. Then I read the book. On reading the book, I came to realise just how brilliantly Oscar winning director Anthony Minghella adapted it to the big screen. It was a mammoth effort and nobody felt it could be done. But it happened and he directed it with grace and style.
The producer, who was Saul Zaentz, won 1 of the 9 Oscars this film won. They were richly deserved. The Oscar winning production designer Stuart Craig (the Oscar winner who designed 'Dangerous Liaisons') did an incredible job, and it was beautifully filmed by Oscar winner John Seale making it look gorgeous. The acting is superb throughout. And the Oscar winning score by Gabriel Yared is also as epic on a grand scale as the film it compliments so superbly.
The special edition DVD is a revelation. There are features looking at the making of the film, The Work of Stuart Craig looking at how he designed the film (excellent by the way) and a couple of deleted scenes among others. A truly exceptional package to compliment an already tremendous film. I feel this film has the same quality and feel of "Gone With the Wind" and David Lean's epics "Dr Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia". One of my favourite DVDs.
on 19 October 2005
The extra value in purchasing this edition over the vanilla release can be summed up like this: DTS & Minghella.
The DTS track makes a dramatic improvement upon the quality of the film. The big sound effects and Gabriel Yared score are exploited 100 times better than Dolby 5.1, and to me that makes it a much more enjoyable experience to sit through.
Then there's Anthony Minghella. I sat there listening to him talk on the commentaries and in interviews, and I thought "I wish I was half as eloquent and sincere as him". He managed to explain his vision of the film in a way that seemed totally true and organic, and which made a subsequent viewing of the film a lot easier to grasp.
Overall a great DVD for true fans of film and literature and aspiring writer-directors.
on 25 October 2011
Whilst the picture quality isn't up there with the best blu-ray can offer (the re-mastered Gladiator or Taxi Driver), direct comparison with the UK PAL 2-disc dvd shows that this has always been a grainy/noisy film. It also reveals that the blu-ray has been nicely spruced up with none of the print flaws evident in the dvd presentation.
But if the visuals underwhelm, the lossless sound is wonderful, and almost worth the purchase price alone.
Until someone does a thorough remaster this'll do. Buy cheap with confidence.
In the final days of the last war, a badly burned man lies dying in an abandoned church in newly liberated Italy. With his memory of the past gone, the one purpose left in his life is to regain his memories before he dies. As those memories come back, a story of love and tragedy emerges.
This film appeals on very many different levels.
The story that unfolds of the doomed love between The English Patient and the wife of one of his fellow pilots and explorers really is a powerful tale.
But as this is revealed, we also see the Patient struggling with a life whose only purpose has become to try to survive for long enough to remember. We see this man living parts of his life again as the memories return.
Interwoven with this is the quest of the mysterious Carravagio to find, confront and bring to justice the man whom he blames for the mutilations that he suffered at the hands of the Germans.
Then there is the story of the Army Nurse, Juliette Binoche who, despite the conflicts and tragedies that she sees remains totally committed to both her patient and the man whom she comes to love.
If these story items are not enough, the beautiful filming of Africa and Italy is real artistry. It's just wonderful to look at. Even without characters and plot, the landscapes and flying sequences would make it worth watching this film.
The acting is a delight to view as well. The actors are confronted with roles that cannot have been at all easy to portray. Despite this, every character in the film is brought to life.
This film was showered with awards when first released and it deserved every one of them. It's a great movie and you can watch it over and over again and keep finding something new to think about.
on 21 August 2008
Having watched The English Patient again recently, I had sand in my shoes and a tear in my eye...
Almásy: What do you love?
Katharine Clifton: What do I love?
Almásy: Say everything.
Katharine Clifton: Water, with fish in it. Hedgehogs, I love hedgehogs. Marmite. Baths, but not with other people! Islands. I could go on all day.
Almásy: Go on all day.
Katharine Clifton: Your handwriting.
Almásy: And what else?
Katharine Clifton: A husband.
Almásy: What do you hate most?
Katharine Clifton: A lie.
For those who have forgotten the depth of romance and passion that the movies are capable of conveying, English Director Anthony Minghella's The English Patient can remedy the situation. This is the most unabashed and powerful love story of recent years. It is a long movie with plenty of sub plots that contains flawless performances, intelligent dialogue, crisp camera work, and loaded glances to convey a level of emotional connection that many similar films miss.
Is The English Patient melodramatic? Of course, but it's the sort of finely-honed melodrama that embraces viewers rather than smothering them. And the movie never resorts to cheap, manipulative tactics. This well-crafted story, brought to the screen with great care by Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain; Talented Mr Ripley) and based on the prize-winning novel by Michael Ondaatje, serves up the love of Almasy (Fiennes) and Katharine (Kristin Scott Thomas - Studio wanted Demi Moore for this part) in a way that is simultaneously epic and intimate. It also serves up a love story between Kip the Sapper and Hanna the nurse to the backdrop of WW2.
The English Patient has an elliptical structure, beginning with the same scene that it ends with. In between, it moves several years into the future, and even further into the past. The opening sequence, which takes place during World War II, shows a British plane being shot down over the North African desert. The pilot, a Hungarian count named Laszlo Almasy, is badly burned in the ensuing crash. Years later, in 1944 Italy, we meet him again. Although his outward injuries have healed, leaving his features scarred beyond recognition, he is dying. He has also supposedly lost his memory.
Hana (Juliette Binoche), the Canadian nurse who cares for him, takes him to an isolated, abandoned church to allow him to die in peace. There, injecting him with morphine and reading to him from his beloved volume of Herodotus, Hana seeks to seeks to stimulate his memories. Meanwhile, others arrive at the church -- a mysterious, crippled war veteran named Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), who has a hidden agenda, and a pair of bomb experts, the British Sgt. Hardy (Kevin Whately) and his Sikh superior, Kip (Naveen Andrews), who becomes Hana's lover.
Eventually, through dreams and waking flashbacks, Almasy's memories come flooding back, although Caravaggio asserts that he hasn't really forgotten anything -- he just wants to forget. The story then flip-flops between the present and a period during the late-'30s and early- '40s, when Almasy is part of a British map-making effort surveying the Sahara. It's then that he meets Katharine Clifton, the wife of a good-natured pilot (Colin Firth who funnily enough plays Colin Firth) who is helping with the project. Almasy and Katharine fall for each other, and the stage is set for a classic exploration of love and betrayal set against the dangerous background of Nazi aggression.
Kristen Scott Thomas is luminous as Katharine, effortlessly conveying to the audience the energy and zest for life that Almasy finds irresistible. Together, these two lovers are hotter than the desert heat that simmers around them.
Juliette Binoche won an academy award as Hana, although her character is poorly developed. Willem Dafoe plays the kind of mysterious role he has become accustomed to (primarily because he does it so well).
The English Patient is the sort of intelligent, epic love story that seems so rare these days. There's something about this film that lingers long after the end credits have rolled -- a desire to re- experience all the feelings generated by the movie, perhaps. One of the reasons for The English Patient's power is that it strikes universal chords. This motion picture is yet another example of how the patience of movie-goers, after being sorely tried during the first eight mediocre months of 1996, is being rewarded by a surge of excellent end-of-the-year releases.
The dvd is crammed with extras, and the OST by M.Jarre is the best soundtrack i have ever heard.
After watching The English Patient again recently, I had sand in my shoes and a tear in my eye.
on 17 June 2009
This film has been my favorite film for a good while now. The first thing that struck me was the tragic nature of the events towards the end. But, once I got over that, I could enjoy the film.
It is quite simply a stunning film in every respect. The opening sequence shows off the quality of the cinematography and music brilliantly. A shot of a hand painting a swimming figure on canvas which slowly dissolves into a view of the desert from high in the sky. The music is haunting. It has a real feeling of longing and unfulfilled desire.
The script itself borders on poetry just like the prose of the novel. The actors and actresses delivering it all give virtuoso performances. Ralph Fiennes comes out on top for me and he is my favorite actor based on this film. The intensity of his gaze is incredible! The themes that are explored in the film are very interesting; desire, betrayal, ownership.
I've watched 'The English Patient' many times now but I still see myself watching it in years to come. It has real depth and lastability. I think it deserved to win all the awards it did and it is very close to my heart. I'd recommend giving it a try.
on 15 July 2001
I have seen this film twice at the movies and countless times on video. The first viewing was i admit a little confusing but i knew just knew that if i was "patient" i would be rewarded. I really was. I found the second viewing to be even more wonderfully beautiful and breathtaking. It is also heartbreaking. Ater the third viewing this film just swept me totally up and i was only sorry that i was not watching it on the big screen again. The acting from everybody involved is great and of course the two central characters Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott-thomas acted their hearts out. Credit where credit is due. I believe this film will become an alltime classic espeacially in years to follow.