Film : The English Patient [ 1996/Drama]
Based on a novel written in 1992/British/160 mins
Cast : Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche
Cinematography : John Seale
Edited by :Walter Murch
Screenplay & Directed by : Anthony Minghella
What travels along with us consistently, right from our childhood [ Shadow-nu kadichu vaikadhinga, pls ].. It’s memories. It could be of any kind.. summer holidays, friends, cinema, school ground, college days, girls, journeys, tours, first salary, little surprises. ‘The English Patient’ is all about digging the memories from almost a death bed. How about a knowledgeable, desert explorer thinks about his past. [ We hardly could differentiate between dessert and desert 🙂 ] This person had been in the most toughest desert journeys, reads books, writes a book, enormously interested in music..
This movie is narrated in non-linear [ mostly present and past alternatively ] and I feel that adds a fabulous experience, watching this movie. Presenting a movie in this manner is a tough job [ Other best movies of non-linear narrations are 21 Grams, Amores perros, Memento, Flags of our fathers and almost all films of Quentin Tarantino (except jackie brown) ]. Tarantino movies are feast to watch [ Thani kadhai ! ].
The goodness of a novel turning into a movie script is its richness of characters and events. Character biography and events are already well set and of course the novel has to be properly penned as a script. [ Academy has original and adapted screenplay section of awards, separately ].
[ Review aarambingappaa .. ]
The story is set in 1930s and 1944 [ shown as present and the flashbacks go to 30’s ]..
The poetic love story starts with a plane exploding with fire. The severely burnt pilot [ Almasy ] is treated by some Arabians in the desert and eventually moved to a war medical camp. Hana is an ill fated n beautiful nurse starts nurturing him. She looses her beloved ones in the war and she thinks whoever she feel closer would die. She keeps the burnt pilot in an abandoned library like building [ Italian villa ] and takes care of.
The pilot named as ‘English patient’ thinks of his past life in series of flashbacks [ tiny flashback scenes ] which involves a geological expedition, poetic love, lust, betrayal and war related politics. In parallel, Almasy, Hana, a thief, and a sapper find themselves in each others company in the old Italian villa, close to the end of World War II. The flashback series unfold the identity of Almasy, his love and links to the other characters in the villa.
The past has it story including Mr & Mrs Clifton, where Mrs Clifton is attracted towards Almasy during their joint desert expedition. Also, the expedition carries a mysterious operation, unknown to the members. The narrative structure mixes both present action with thoughts and conversations that offer views of the past happenings.
Do you know what is ‘supasternal notch’ ? 🙂
This outline is enough to watch the complicated film.
– The foremost beautiful thing in this film is transformation or dissolving. The sand dunes shot dissolve into the unevenly spread bed sheet [ remember eyeball in Titanic ]. Also, the scenes overlap. Something like this.. the next scene’s dialog comes and fills the ending silence of the first scene. Also, the sound.. the foot tapping of Hana while playing hopscotch, turns to a folk beat in the desert. A ballroom dance dissolves in the patient’s face. .[ Idhellaam editing games ].
– The main character Almasy is very interesting. I like the intelligent hero who talks less. 4th wall can even feel his performance in his horribly burnt face.
– The moment the character Katherine comes in, you expect something unusual [ Silmisham 🙂 ] to happen. The lead is given by a folk story narrated by Katherine in the camp. She is also an intelligent lady with a caring husband. Still she misses something in life.
– The screenplay is cleverly penned so that the happenings don’t traverse in the way audience expect. For example, K leaves the desert along with other team whereas the 4th wall expects her to stay back with Almasy. After a minute drama, something else happens. [ minor twists – usually Bhagyaraj uses this a lot ].
– Also, when you think that Almasy and K develop a relation, they just depart without even saying Bye [ Ada Che! ]. Then she comes back to his place in a nice white dress and the dress is sewed later. 4thwall leaves the reader to guess what happened :).
– The Nurse character Hana is a mix of matured and child-like character. She loves, plays hopscotch, sobs and laughs instantly.. just like a kid. She loves the Sikh sapper named Kip and its’ the other love story. Actually, the story is about 2 love stories.. 1 in the past and 1 in the present.
– When I say non-linear narration, it’s enormous effort for an editor [ Walter Murch won academy award for this movie in both sound & editing – Editor of all the 3 Godfather movies !]. I couldn’t stop thinking about the effort for the film ‘Memento’ [ narrated in reverse chronology ]
– This film is a period drama without making the 4th wall conscious about that. The costumes, buildings, vehicles, just reflect the time fluidly, without any visual gimmicks.
– A good film shows the same shot twice with a different meaning. Also, the film starts and ends with the same scenes. They call it as elliptical structure. [ Remember the opening & closing scenes of ‘A Perfect world’ – Clint Eastwood ]. Watch out for such smaller details through out the movie.
– Most of the characters and elements are introduced within the first 15 minutes of the film, including morphine [ a medicine ].
– The dialogues are catchy.. David talks to Almasy saying that ‘That is when I had thumbs and you had a face.. n name too’. Almasy, even as a patient cracks wits n jokes.
– The music, silence, sounds are appropriately placed and it’s soothing. The folk music ‘Szerelem‘ is a good one.
If you are a reader, I would suggest you to the read the novel first. Else, if are of Toto’s category , just grab a DVD and enjoy the movie. I look forward to read the book ‘THE CONVERSATIONS: WALTER MURCH AND THE ART OF EDITING FILM’. [ ஏற்கனவே ரொம்ப அழகு.. இதுல எடிட்டிங் வேற படிக்கறியா.. சுத்தம்.. :)].