Release date: November 15th, 1996
Running time: 155 minutes
Director: Anthony Minghella
Writers: Anthony Minghella, Michael Ondaatje (novel)
Composer: Gabriel Yared
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Naveen Andrews, Colin Firth
“I always loved you”: 02:03:24 to 02:06:16
Have you ever asked yourself what love really means?
Love is perhaps the strongest human emotion. Everyone has felt it, and we just know how much it impacts our lives, our thoughts, our actions. It’s a feeling we can’t control… We can’t decide who we fall in love with, even if we suffer – like Laszlo de Almasy:
De Almasy is the main character in Michael Ondaatje’s prize-winning novel The English Patient, a masterpiece adapted for the screen by director Anthony Minghella, a great storyteller in his own right. A dramatic tale of passion and romance, The English Patient is set during World War II and tells of the love between Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) and Katharine (Kristin Scott Thomas) during World War II.
The film is much more than just another well-crafted love story; it’s one of those rare movies that equally captivates its audience and reminds us of the power of cinema – and in compelling ways of a feeling that is maybe a faint memory for most of us.
But some people remember – when they fall in love again, perhaps with someone who is married…
When two people love each other but can’t be together, it can turn into an obsession, a love that makes them happy and unhappy at the same time
And when were you least happy?
The English Patient pulls us into the intimate moments of an obsessive love story – a story of two people who resist their feelings rather than embrace them. So it becomes a love that is painful, difficult, damaging and tragic.
It’s the story of a badly burned man, a plane crash victim who is bedridden in a monastery in Italy. He is in the care of young nurse Hana (Juliette Binoche). She doesn’t know much about the man as he supposedly lost his memory. She assumes he is English and names him “the English patient”.
The English patient doesn’t seem to possess anything but a copy of Herodotus’ The Histories, marked throughout with his notes, figures, and observations. Eventually, he remembers his time in Africa, where he worked as a geographer in an exploration team.
His story is told through dreams and flashbacks, taking the viewer back to his time during World War II, leading from the larger theme of war to personal stories about love, betrayal and identity.
Almasy falls in love with Katharine who is married to Geoffrey Clifton (Colin Firth). Her husband finds out about the affair and wants revenge – the ultimate revenge. The story culminates in a scene that stands for Minghella’s mastery in storytelling. To me, the “I always loved you” scene is the most memorable one, the scene that arguably represents the essence of The English Patient.
When World War II breaks out, the members of the exploration team decide to pack the camp. Geoffrey offers to pick up Almasy with his plane but Almasy doesn’t know Katharine is on board. Geoffrey flies towards Almasy with the intent of killing all three of them but Almasy can to pull away just before the plane crashes in the desert. He finds Geoffrey who died instantly. Then he sees Katharine, alive but badly injured and in pain.
I can’t move. I can’t get out.
Why did he bring you?
A surprise, he said…
Poor Geoffrey. He knew. He must have known all the time. He was shouting – I love you, Katharine, I love you so much… Is he badly hurt?
Almasy lifts Katharine out of the plane wreck and carries her on his arms to the Cave of Swimmers, a place that the exploration team had discovered previously.
I’ve have to get you out.
It hurts too much.
Almasy: I know, darling, I’m sorry.
He wraps her in the silk folds of her parachute and walks along the cleft in the rock to approach Cave of Swimmers as he notices the thimble around her neck.
Don’t you know you drove everybody mad?
Shh, don’t talk.
You speak so many bloody languages and you never wanted to talk.
You’re wearing the thimble.
Of course, you idiot. I always wear it; I’ve always worn it… I’ve always loved you.
The tone in Katharine’s voice and her staunchness when she says “I always loved you” is one of the most emotional moments in the movie. It’s a moment that always touches me and makes me feel Almasy’s pain – the pain of a man who carries his badly-hurt love that he might lose again, but this time forever.
While Almasy carries Katharine who strokes his face, we see him crying. The close-up of his face reveals a surge of emotions, and the pain he’s in. We see the deep affection of two lovers in a moment of shattering tragedy, as the salvation that lies in Katharine’s confession is taken away at once. It might be too late for the two of them to finally follow their hearts.
Like this scene, the whole film draws his mesmerizing energy also from the art of editing. Out of 9 Academy Awards, The English Patient won an unprecedented double Oscar for its sound and film editing. Walter Murch covered uncharted territory with this film – it was the first movie he completely edited at the computer. In his book, In The Blink of an Eye, he describes how the movie made a transition from mechanical to electronic editing in the middle of the production which had never happened.
Murch did an excellent job on the flashback structure and the different time frames, taking us back to Almasy’s time during World War II, into his dreams and back to his last moments. The interaction of image, dialogue and sound guide us through the very tragic and extremely intimate moments of The English Patient, not least the “I always loved you” scene.
In his dying moments, Almasy takes us back to his time with Katharine. We literally see that love isn’t always a “sweet tale of passion”, there almost seems to be a connection between the bliss of the ultimate emotion and its potential for tragedy.
This might also be the enduring message The English Patient, and explain the impact the film made.
In Almasy’s last moment, a moment of pain and persisting love, Hana reads Katharine’s last note to him.
Barbara is currently a Motion Pictures and Television student at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, USA. What she enjoys most about filmmaking is film editing and her ultimate ambition is to become a film editor.
She draws inspiration from a number of people in the industry including directors Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese and significantly from her ultimate role model, film editor Walter Murch, who cut many award-winning films including The English Patient and The Godfather II. Even though Barbara is in her mid twenties she is appreciative of films produced in a number of eras such as the pre-war film era and often she feels she favors these to those made in today’s era.
Barbara wants to write to share her passion for film and to give the reader a better understanding of the “little details” in film that she says are actually “the big things” playing pivotal roles in making each production so unique and entertaining.
You can follow Barbara on Twitter @B_Diril.