The protagonist, Count Laszlo Almasy, a Hungariancartographer, perhaps has been struck the hardest of any. Almasy is rescued from hisplane after it is shot down and is soon mistaken for an English soldier. However, histroubles continue as his body is burnt from head to toe leaving the majority of his bodyimmobile. Almasy is dependent on heavy doses of morphine in order to temporarilyrelieve him of the excruciating pain that he suffers from.
Also, if that isn’t enough,Almasy fails to save the life of Katherine Clifton, a woman who he loves so dearly. Hana, the British nurse caring for Almasy, fortunately gets through the war without anyphysical damage. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the emotional impact that shesuffers from. At times, the pain is so severe that Hana wishes death upon herself. Thediligent Nurse feels as if everyone she has ever loved eventually leaves her. Hana has thehorrifying experience of seeing through her very own eyes the death of her companionJenny during an automobile explosion.
In addition, Hana’s job requires her to care forwar wounded, dying patients who rely on solely hope to survive. Hana sheds some lighton the situation when she meets, and perhaps falls in love with, the intellectual Indianbomb specialist, Kip. However, as the war moves on and nears its end, Kip must transferpositions leaving Hana alone with only Almasy and Caravaggio. This sudden departureis just one of the several disappointments Hana faces. Minghella outlines this negativetheme throughout the film by displaying numerous tragedies. There exists a parallel between this film and Enrique Maria Remarque’s All Quieton the Western Front as both show the horrors of war.
However, differences lie in thefact that Remarque’s novel took place during World War I and was a factual retelling. Onthe other hand, The English Patient was based on a novel that set during World War II. Itis of the opinion that although The English Patient is a fictitious piece of work, the stylein which it was filmed made the viewers feel that it was as real if not more realistic thanRemarque’s novel/movie. This was accomplished with the remarkable cinematographyinvolved in the making of this film. Another theme of the film is that of love and romance.
These two themes arerepeatedly brought out by the actions of the characters. The most illustrious example ofthis lies in the relationship between Count Laszlo Almasy and Katherine Clifton. Almasyfirst encounters Clifton, in the desert where they flirtatiously argue about the use ofadjectives in literature. Almasy later sees Mrs. Clifton in an outdoor market in Cairowhere Almasy shows his affection towards her for the first time. These feelings arebecome evident through their powerful dialogue.
Later, Clifton confronts Almasy abouthim following her home after leaving the market during a slow dancing at a formal affair. The married Clifton, at first reluctant to have any sexual relationship with Almasy, laterfinds herself unable to resist temptation and soon falls in love with the obsessed Almasy. The handsome Almasy shows his love towards Clifton in many ways including walkingfor days across the deserts of Cairo hoping to find a doctor who can save the woundedClifton. The film extrapolates on their relationship by showing numerous sexualinteractions between the two. The love scenes displayed are intense and intellectualrather than explicit. This was done in order to allow the entire audience to benefit fromPerhaps the most dramatic of these scenes takes place on Christmas in Cairo inthe courtyard of the British Embassy.
This scene was extremely significant, and perhapseven climatic, as we see Almasy and Katherine Clifton passionately sexually interact forthe second time. The scene commences when the screen shows the British soldierssitting at a long table in an open courtyard. Katherine walks over to a window on one ofthe walls. This window isn’t made of glass, but rather possesses metal bars. Inside theEmbassy, on the other side of the window is Count Almasy.
The camera pans asKatherine walks over to the window at which point Almasy tells Katherine of his plan toget her alone. The camera cuts back and forth between the two. At this point, a telephotolens is used to concentrate the viewers’ attention on Katherine and Almasy and theirdialogue rather than on the background events taking place. Music from an orquestra isheard.
The music is soft and displays a happy theme as the soldiers celebrate thebirthday of Jesus ChristThe bars on the window are also extremely significant as theyare representative of a force keeping Katherine and Almasy away from each other. Almasy stands behind the window with a shadow casted on his head from metal bars. The bars, running perpendicular to each other, cast a shadow in the shape of a cross. Anironic twist comes as a result of many things. First, there are two Christians planning tocommit adultery.
This is both a crime and sin in the Christian religion. It is also ironicthat it is the holiest of holidays, Christmas. Next, there is an appearance of a cross on thehead of Almasy. Along with the separation of the two by the window, these other factorsare attempting to hint to them not to go through with their plan. The cutting rhythm of this scene is quite dynamic. After we see the shadow onAlmasy’s face, the camera cuts numerous times in a quick manner and displays the facesof numerous characters.
The camera pans as Katherine walks back to her originalposition before going to the window. At this point she is located around the upper left toupper middle portion of the screen. The only lighting observed is the key lightingcoming from the sun. To the right of her is the table where the soldiers sit.
They aredressed in uniform, facing one another across the table as they prepare for a toast. Inunison, everyone in the room raises their glasses and chants “Merry Christmas. ” At thisprecise moment the camera is located at a high position directly above the courtyard,tilting down. The downward tilt gives the feeling of being controlled, restricted, or evenspied upon. This adds to the suspense and drama of what is yet to come.
Immediately following the toast, Katherine begins to follow up the conspicuousplan. Minghella uses on a normal lens for this shot. Both Katherine and her backgroundare in focus. Also, in view at this time is Count Almasy, still in his position behind thebars of the window watching the acting Katherine. The window is shown at the middle ofKatherine fakes an illness and then denies permission to an escort who offers totake care of her. She meets up with Almasy in a doorway and walks behind him as theyhold hands and go into a back private room of the Embassy.
The lighting in the doorwayis dark. At no time during this scene is there any artificial lighting. The sound heard atthis time is of people talking as they congregate just outside of where the two areinteracting. The viewers see a close up of the Katherine and Almasy through a telephotolens when Almasy begins to undress Katherine Clifton.
A beautiful cutting rhythm isincorporated as the camera swiftly moves from the face of Katherine to the face ofAlmasy back to the face and body of Katherine and then a shot of both of their faces. When shown, the heads of the characters dominate the entire screen and littlebackground in visible. To add irony to the situation, the song “Silent Night” has soundedduring their interaction. This music starts precisely when Almasy puts his hand on thedress and bra strap of Katherine and gets louder as they proceed to undress and climaxesas they are having sex.
In addition to “Silent Night” we also hear echoes coming from anorquestra. Katherine and Almasy contradict the lyrics of the Christmas carol. Theemphasis here reinforces the fact that it is Christmas and they are committing a severeAs the scene progresses, there is a zoom in on the neck of Katherine. The camerafocuses on the neck of Katherine. It is specifically on the sensitive section right above thecollar bone.
This shot foreshadows a later remark made by Almasy during a sequencewhen he and Katherine make love and Almasy states: “I claim this for me. ” The otherobject which is in extreme focus and is zoomed in on is Katherine’s pearl necklace. Thepearl necklace, which is a valuable accessory and could also be used as a term whichcontains sexual reference, is representative of Katherine’s marriage to Geoffrey Clifton,her current husband. The off white color of the pearls suggests innocence, acharacteristic which Katherine obviously contrasts. The shot cuts to show the man playing the bag pipes.
The musician is located onthe left half of the screen leaving the right side displaying a window characterized bysmoked glass. Through this window, we are able to see shadows of Almasy and Cliftonmaking love. The music reaches its climax in terms of intensity and loudness at thispoint and the suspense also reaches a maximum. The scene cuts to Katherine one final time and her head is dominating the entirescreen from left to right. The sound of “Silent Night” fades out and the scene cuts backto the courtyard where the soldiers are sitting.
The camera at this point is where it wasfor the original toast, high above, tilting down. The scene ends with the soldiers raisingthere glasses for another toast. The toast shows satire as it appears as if they aredrinking to the fact that Katherine and Almasy just finished their lovemaking when theyare actually making a toast with regard to the war or holiday. The English Patient utilizes all aspects of cinematography so brilliantly which iswhy there is such a tremendous amount of meaning.
The dialogue is so deep andsignificant that every line should be carefully listened to and thought about. Although thedialogue was limited in my scene, the sound of “Silent Night” and the music from theorquestra played a significant role in determining the scene’s meaning. All of the rest of technicalities of the scene are consistent with the rest of the film. In the scene, along with the rest of the film, there is no artificial lighting.
Most of the keylighting came from the sun or the moon. For scenes inside, either light came throughwindows or certain objects that were used on the set gave light. For example if acharacter utilized a flashlight, that would provide the source of light. Other examplesinclude light from bonfires and lanterns. The type of camera lens which dominated myscene and most of the film was a telephoto lens. The telephoto lens is characterized by ashallow depth of field.
Given that, only the close objects are in focus while thebackground images are blurred. Minghella’s use of a telephoto lens time and time againduring climatic points also highlights and emphasizes the two themes mentioned above. Ifeel it is also necessarily to complement the superb job on the costumes and makeup. Itadded a sense a realism in an extraordinary amount. Lastly, the cutting rhythm during myscene and the entire film were similar. Although sometimes slow, often times they werequick creating a sense of realism and suspense which made the viewer want to watch on.