December 29, 2007

War times are not the same

by Adriana Kakehasi

Film: The English Patient, 1996
Screenplay and direction: Anthony Minghella
With: Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List), Juliette Binoche (Chocolate), Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas
Soundtrack: Gabriel Yared (Betty Blue)

Based on the novel of the same title by Michael Ondaatje

At the end of the Second World War, we can say that two stories go on vividly at the same time. The first is the past of Almasy (Ralph Fiennes), an unidentified ill man living in an Italian village under the care of a strong woman. The other involves Hana (Juliette Binoche), a 20-year-old Canadian nurse, tired of the homeless life, and two other men that make part of her life in very distinct ways: Kip - a bomb disarmer and Caravaggio - a retired thief. As she reads Herodotus to the English patient, he remembers every minute until the tragic end of his only truthful romance. Even though he tries in vain to forget it, the memories come with such intense pain that neither the doses of morphine nor his actual appearance can overcome that. The main point in commom for all of them is the feeling of hopelessness in life, the result of miserable years of war.

Although the book is mainly located in a villa near Florence, where the English patient, Hana, Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe on the screen) and Kip are, Anthony Minghella`s competent adaptation was capable of a very beautiful migration from the Italian scenery to the desert and of a tremendous growth of some characters, not extensively explored by the author, Michael Ondaatje. One can say that an example of this 'upgrade' is Kristin S Thomas' work as Katherine, not to mention the perfect participation of Juliette Binoche, even looking some years older than the original Hana. Another impressive point is the photography, which brings us a gorgeous Sahara desert, a unique place for a torrid romance, and permits an appreciation of some of the ancient rules of what is considered such an inhospitable location.

The soundtrack by Gabriel Yared (Betty Blue) is another precious gift in this adaptation, giving us an extra intensity to the scenes, no matter whether they are located in the desert or in Italy.

Both the book and the movie are very good examples of excellent literature and cinema. The adaptation is so powerful that it is impossible to read the book after seeing the film without remembering the screen pictures.

Can any modern war allow the contructon of such a kind of romance? Maybe not. So it would be interesting to read this masterpeace first, and give your imagination a pleasant exercise. If not feasible, you wil be very surprised by both the novel and the film.

Watch the movie trailer

More reviews:
Rumble Fish

The da Vinci Code
The Green Mile
Under the Tuscan Sun


johanna said...

I agree with you, the film's music and cinematography are superb! Anthony Minghella won a well-deserved Academy Award for his direction.

Anonymous said...

Hi Johana,
in fact, through this soundtrack I discovered others excelent works from Gabriel Yared.
And everytime I see the movie and all of its perfection I think it is a good example for what the Academy has to award.