The English Patient (film)

The English Patient (film)

Infobox Film
name= The English Patient

caption= Film poster for "The English Patient".
director= Anthony Minghella
writer= Anthony Minghella (screenplay)
Michael Ondaatje (novel)
starring= Ralph Fiennes
Kristin Scott Thomas
Willem Dafoe
Juliette Binoche
Colin Firth
Naveen Andrews
producer= Saul Zaentz
music= Gabriel Yared
cinematography= John Seale
editing= Walter Murch
distributor= Miramax Films
released= flagicon|USA 6 November 1996
flagicon|Canada 22 November, 1996
flagicon|Australia 6 March, 1997
flagicon|New Zealand 13 March, 1997
flagicon|UK 14 March, 1997
runtime= 162 Min.
language= English
budget= US$27 million (estimated)
amg_id= 1:136728
imdb_id= 0116209

"The English Patient" is a 1996 film adaptation of the novel by the same name by Michael Ondaatje. The film, directed by Anthony Minghella, won nine Academy Awards [cite news |first=Lawrence |last=Van Gelder |authorlink= |author= |coauthors= |title= 'English Patient' Dominates Oscars With Nine, Including Best Picture |url= |format= |work=The New York Times |publisher=The New York Times Company |location= |id= |pages= |page= |date=1997-03-25 |accessdate=2008-06-18 |language= |quote= |archiveurl= |archivedate= ] , including Best Picture. Ondaatje worked closely with the filmmakers to preserve his artistic vision, and stated that he was happy with the film as an adaptationFact|date=July 2008.


The film is set during World War II and depicts a critically burned man, at first known only as 'the English patient', who is being looked after by Hana, a French-Canadian nurse in a ruined Italian villa. The patient is reluctant to disclose any personal information but through a series of flashbacks, viewers are allowed into his past. It is slowly revealed that he is in fact a Hungarian geographer, Count László de Almásy, who was making a map of the Sahara Desert, and whose affair with a married woman ultimately brought about his present situation. As the patient remembers more, David Caravaggio, a Canadian thief/intelligence operative, arrives at the monastery. Caravaggio lost his thumbs while being interrogated by officers of the German Afrika Korps, and he gradually reveals that it was the patient's actions that had brought about his torture.

In addition to the patient's story, the film devotes time to Hana and her romance with Kip, an Indian sapper in the British Army. Due to various events in her past, Hana believes that anyone who comes close to her is likely to die, and Kip's position as a bomb defuser makes their romance full of tension.


The film is often radically different from the novel, which is far less focused on the love affair between Almásy and Katharine. Among other differences, Jürgen Prochnow's German Abwehr character was an Italian officer in the book, and the circumstances of Caravaggio's capture by Axis troops were also drastically different.

Ondaatje based the central figure on the real Count László de Almásy, a famous Hungarian researcher of the Sahara Desert. Like the character, Almásy was a disciple of Herodotus, and discoverer of the Ain Doua prehistoric rock painting sites, including the Cave of Swimmers, in the western Jebel Uweinat mountains, on the Gilf Kebir plateau in what is today remote Southwestern Egypt. However, the film's version of Almásy is still heavily fictionalised. A factual overview of his life is provided in the 2002 Saul Kelly book, "The Hunt for Zerzura: The Lost Oases and the Desert War".

The cave scenes depicted in the film are an artificially created filmset.


In his book, "The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film" (2002), Michael Ondaatje records his conversations with the film's editor and sound designer Walter Murch, who won two Academy Awards for the film. Murch describes the complexity of editing a film with multiple flashbacks and timeframes; he edited and re-edited numerous times, and notes that the final film features over 40 time transitions.


The film garnered widespread critical acclaim and was a major award winner as well as a box office success; its awards included the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Golden Globe Award and the BAFTA Award for Best Film. Juliette Binoche won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, winning out over Lauren Bacall for "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (it would have been Bacall's only Oscar win, and in her acceptance speech Binoche commented that she had expected Bacall to win). Anthony Minghella took home the Oscar for Best Director. Kristin Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes were nominated for Best Actress and Best Actor. In all, "The English Patient" was nominated for an impressive 12 awards and ultimately walked away with 9. It is the highest-grossing non-IMAX film (and second highest-grossing film overall) to never reach the weekend box office top 5. [ [ Top Grossing Movies That Never Hit the Top 5 at the Box Office ] ]

An episode of Seinfeld was devoted to lampooning the film's fervent supporters: Elaine is dumped by her boyfriend because of her tepid response to the film, and her critique culminates with the outburst, "Quit telling your stupid story, about the stupid desert, and just die already! Die!!".

Since weekend box office top 10 rankings were first recorded in 1982, "The English Patient" and "Amadeus" are the only two Best Picture winners to never enter the weekend box office top 5. ["The English Patient" weekend box office results, [] ] ["Amadeus" weekend box office results, [] ]

Pulitzer Prize winning critic Roger Ebert, from the Chicago Sun Times gave the movie a 4 star rating, saying that "It is the kind of movie you can see twice--first for the questions, the second time for the answers." [ [ Rogert Ebert - Official Website] "The English Patient". Retrieved on June 10, 2008.]


*Demi Moore was considered for the role of Katharine Clifton when the project was at Twentieth Century-Fox.
*Ralph Fiennes so enjoyed a spoof version of the film, [] made with soft toys and shown on The Adam and Joe Show on UK television's Channel 4, that he contacted the show for a copy.
*The 1942 capture of Tobruk is depicted in the film but erroneously has Germans parachuting into the town. In reality this never actually happened - Fallschirmjäger were only used as motorized or line infantry in North Africa due to the earlier massive casualties during the Invasion of Crete - Hitler saw parachutist soldiers as having passed their usefulness.
*The entire film was shot on location in Italy and Tunisia.

Cast and crew


* Ralph Fiennes - Count László de Almásy
* Juliette Binoche - Hana
* Kristin Scott Thomas - Katharine Clifton
* Willem Dafoe - David Caravaggio
* Naveen Andrews - Lt. Kip Singh
* Colin Firth - Geoffrey Clifton
* Kevin Whately - Sgt. Hardy
* Jürgen Prochnow - Major Müller

Awards and Nominations

1997 Academy Awards

*Won, Best Picture
*Won, Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Juliette Binoche
*Won, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan)
*Won, Best Cinematography (John Seale)
*Won, Best Costume Design (Ann Roth)
*Won, Best Director (Anthony Minghella)
*Won, Best Film Editing (Walter Murch)
*Won, Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Gabriel Yared)
*Won, Best Sound (Walter Murch, Mark Berger, David Parker, and Christopher Newman)
*Nominated, Best Actor in a Leading Role: Ralph Fiennes
*Nominated, Best Actress in a Leading Role: Kristin Scott Thomas
*Nominated, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Anthony Minghella)

1997 Golden Globes, USA

*Won, Best Motion Picture - Drama
*Won, Best Original Score - Motion Picture (Gabriel Yared)
*Nominated, Best Director - Motion Picture (Anthony Minghella)
*Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama: Ralph Fiennes
*Nominated, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama: Kristin Scott Thomas
*Nominated, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Juliette Binoche
*Nominated, Best Screenplay - Motion Picture (Anthony Minghella)

1997 BAFTA Awards, UK

*Won, Best Film
*Won, Best Cinematography (John Seale)
*Won, Best Editing (Walter Murch)
*Won, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Juliette Binoche)
*Won, Best Screenplay - Adapted (Anthony Minghella)
*Won, Best Music (Gabriel Yared)

Popular Culture

The film was used in a episode of Seinfeld.

The film is referenced in number 36 of the in Wedding Crashers.


External links

* [ Laszlo Almásy, the real English patient] .
* [ Spoof with soft toys]

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