The Heart is an Organ of Fire

The English Patient is another standard Best Picture winner. It’s British, nearly 3 hours long, set during World War II, there’s romance, and a sweeping foreign location. I deliberately avoided The English Patient for years, because it was long and sounded boring. I don’t hate it like Elaine did on Seinfeld, but I do think Fargo was the more deserving Best Picture winner. The English Patient was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won 9 for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, and Sound. Director and writer Anthony Minghella had the difficult task of adapting Michael Ondaatje’s book of the same name.

The English Patient is told from multiple perspectives with real life Hungarian cartographer Count László Almásy at the center. Though the book and movie are highly fictionalized, Ralph Fiennes delivers a star-making Oscar nominated performance as the mostly unlikable map maker. Almásy spends a lot of time in the Egyptian desert with his friend Madox during WWII. He starts a passionate love affair with the married Katherine Clifton. Though she began her career with a Razzie nomination, Kristin Scott Thomas redeems herself in the Oscar nominated role. Fiennes and Scott Thomas have powerful chemistry, but it is still an affair. Colin Firth plays her husband who supplies an airplane that ends up having harsh consequences.

The only thing that makes The English Patient feel especially long is the fact that the mysterious amnesia stricken English patient is slowly dying from severe third-degree burns near the end of the war. French actress Juliette Binoche won Best Supporting Actress for playing the grief stricken nurse Hana who cares for Almásy. She has her own, much more innocent love affair with Sikh bomb defuser Kip played by the Indian Naveen Andrews. They’re also joined by Willem Dafoe as a Canadian spy seeking revenge from the Germans and possibly Almásy himself. The English Patient is an effective character study that could’ve been tightened up a bit.

The English Patient

Almásy dances with Katherine

5 thoughts on “The Heart is an Organ of Fire

  1. This was an answer on Jeopardy! last night in a film adaptation of books category. I like Ralph Fiennes a lot, but he’s never seemed like a romantic leading man type to me. The little I read on the film had me thinking it was a weak attempt to bring a Doctor Zhivago style story to modern audiences. One thing that always stuck with me reading about the film is that TV Guide gave it three out of four stars, the only Best Picture winner to my knowledge not to have a 4 star rating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I answered it correctly! I’ve encountered so many coincidences since I started this marathon. Including a reference to Doctor Zhivago on Stranger Things the same day I reviewed the movie. You’re not wrong that The English Patient doesn’t really deserve 4 stars.

      Liked by 1 person

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