The English Patient came out in 1996 as a romantic drama. The screenplay is based off of the book with the same name by Michael Ondaatje which was released in 1992. The film envelops the elements of fate, desire, passion, romance and tragedy that unfold during World War II Italy, as told through the flashbacks of a burn victim. The burn victim was once a charismatic archaeologist whose love for another man's wife and his sacrifices for that love ultimately spell his end. In the final days of the Italian Campaign of World War II Hana (A French-Canadian nurse) looks after a critically burned English man who claims amnesia and the inability to remember his name. While Hana is helping make his last days comfortable she has the company of a questionable former thief named David and a bomb diffuser named Kip. Originally 20th Century Fox wanted Demi Moore to play the love interest but but the producers refused, causing the film to them go with Miramax. I can't imagine Demi pulling off the poise of the role in the same way.
Themes of the movie: Real vs Fiction: The Real life count Laszlo Almasy (the burn victim in the story) discovered a cave in the Sahara of people swimming, which was a very rare and important find. This is also portrayed in the book and the movie, although whether or not the location is the same is questionable. The film was actually shot on location in Tunisia & Italy. The film was critically acclaimed and took home 9 out of 12 nominated academy awards to include: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Film Editing, best Original Score, Best Sound. It was nominated for but did not win the best lead Actor, Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Original Score.
It is a film that evoked this review from the late Roger Ebert "Backward into memory, forward into loss and desire, “The English Patient” searches for answers that will answer nothing. This poetic, evocative film version of the famous novel by Michael Ondaatje circles down through layers of mystery until all of the puzzles in the story have been solved, and only the great wound of a doomed love remains. It is the kind of movie you can see twice--first for the questions, the second time for the answers." With that sort of review, you know it is one of those few gems released by Hollywood.
It also had an all-star cast that worked seamlessly into bringing this story to life:
Burn Victim/Count Laszlo Almasy: Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter, Red Dragon, Schindler's List)
Hana the nurse: Juliette Binoche (Dan in Real Life, Chocolat)
Katherine the love interest: Kristin Scott Thomas (Bel Ami, Gosford Park, Mission: Impossible)
David the theif: Willem Dafoe (Boondock Saints, Spiderman, John Cater, Daybreakers)
Kip the bomb diffuser: Naveen Andrews (Once Upon A Time, Lost, The Brave One)
Geoffrey, Katherine's husband: Colin Firth (Love Actually, King's Speech, Bridget Jone's Diary)
All in all, this is an epic story. One I like to revisit at least once a year and many more times if I can find the free time. Despite it all, there was REAL and true love here. I have heard a lot about the book lately and will be adding it to my list of books to read (it is long, but never TOO long). And I want to learn much more about the Hungarian Laszlo Almasy whom was the inspiration for the story! All in all I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars.