Taglines: In love, there are no boundaries.
October 1944 in war torn Italy. Hana, a French-Canadian nurse working in a mobile army medical unit, feels like everything she loves in life dies on her. Because of the difficulty traveling and the dangers, especially as the landscape is still heavily booby-trapped with mines, Hana volunteers to stay behind at a church to care solely for a dying semi-amnesiac patient, who is badly burned and disfigured.
She agrees to catch up to the rest of the unit after he dies. All the patient remembers is that he is English and that he is married. Their solitude is disrupted with the arrival at the church of fellow Canadian David Caravaggio, part of the Intelligence Service, who is certain that he knows the patient as a man who cooperated with the Germans. Caravaggio believes that the patient’s memory is largely in tact and that he is running away from his past, in part or in its entirety.
The patient does open up about his past, all surrounding his work as a cartographer in North Africa, which was interrupted by the war. He may not be running from his work as a spy for the Germans as Caravaggio believes, but rather the memory of an affair he had with married Katherine Clifton, the love of his life, and the memory of a promise not totally fulfilled.
Hana may also test her theory of her fates with love and death as she embarks on a relationship of her own with Kip Singh, a Sikh from India, whose unit has camped on the now overgrown lawn of the church. Their work entails sweeping for and diffusing mines, the discovery of one such mine which had earlier saved her life.
The English Patient is a 1996 British-American war drama film directed by Anthony Minghella from his own script based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ondaatje and produced by Saul Zaentz. The film was released to critical acclaim, and received 12 nominations at the 69th Academy Awards, eventually winning nine, including Best Picture, Best Director for Minghella and Best Supporting Actress for Juliette Binoche.
Saul Zaentz was interested in working with Anthony Minghella after he saw the director’s film Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990); Minghella brought this project to the producer’s attention. Michael Ondaatje, the Sri Lankan-born Canadian author of the novel, worked closely with the filmmakers.
During the development of the project with 20th Century Fox, according to Minghella, the “studio wanted the insurance policy of so-called bigger” actors. Zaentz recalled, “they’d look at you and say, ‘Could we cast Demi Moore in the role?” Not until Miramax Films took over was the director’s preference for Scott Thomas accepted. The film was shot on location in Tunisia and Italy with a production budget of $31 million.
The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (2002) by Michael Ondaatje is based on the conversations between the author and film editor. Murch, with a career that already included complex works like the Godfather trilogy, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now, dreaded the task of editing the film with multiple flashbacks and time frames.
Once he began, the possibilities became apparent, some of which took him away from the order of the original script. A reel without sound was made so scene change visuals would be consistent with the quality of the aural aspect between the two. The final cut features over 40 temporal transitions. It was during this time that Murch met Ondaatje and they were able to exchange thoughts about editing the film.
Two types of aircraft are used in the film, a De Havilland D.H.82 Tiger Moth and a Boeing-Stearman Model 75. Both are biplanes. The camp crash scene was made with a ½-size scale model. The Hungarian folk song, “Szerelem, Szerelem”, performed by Muzsikas featuring Márta Sebestyén, featured in the film.
The English Patient (1996)
Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Naveen Andrews, Colin Firth, Julian Wadham, Jürgen Prochnow, Kevin Whately
Screenplay by: Anthony Minghella
Production Design by: Stuart Craig
Cinematography by: John Seale
Film Editing by: Walter Murch
Costume Design by: Gary Jones, Ann Roth
Set Decoration by: Aurelio Crugnola, Stephenie McMillan
Art Direction by: Aurelio Crugnola
Music by: Gabriel Yared
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Release Date: November 15, 1996