1996 • The English Patient

ELAINE: Oh. No. I can’t do this any more. I can’t. It’s too long. (to the screen) Quit telling your stupid story, about the stupid desert, and just die already! (louder) Die!!

The other movie patrons turn and shush Elaine, who sits back in her seat.

PETERMAN: (surprised) Elaine. You don’t like The English Patient?

ELAINE: (shouts) I hate it!!


ELAINE: (shouts) Oh, go to hell!!

PETERMAN: (quietly) Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? You’re fired.

ELAINE: (grabbing her bag and coat) Great. I’ll wait for you outside.

The English Patient, 1996Ah, The English Patient—the movie that Seinfeld had ruined for me years before I would ever see it. I mean, if a character portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, an actress I have the utmost respect for, hates the movie so much, why would I like it? I seriously went into the movie with that attitude, 14 years after that episode of Seinfeld aired!

In my opinion, Fargo was by far the better movie of the 1996 Academy Awards, and even Jerry Maguire I found to be much more entertaining. But this movie screams of Best Picture due to it being based during a war, starring some foreign actors, and being really long! How could it not win!

The English Patient is the story of a torrid love affair set against the end of World War II, told through flashbacks by Count László de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes), who was making a map of the Sahara Desert during World War II, and his affair with Katherine Clifton, a British partner added to the expedition. The film is all too complicated for me to briefly explain, but we learn right away that the Count in the present day has been badly burned and is being looked after by a nurse in an abandoned Italian monastery, and the tale of how he got there is seen via flashbacks.

Highlights of the movie included some of the intense desert scenes, especially the sandstorm which buried the expedition team. Also famous are the love scenes between the Count and Katherine. (We get to see nude Kristin Scott Thomas!) The story truly was a sad one, and the romance between the main characters ranks among the best of the Best Pics.

Stories told via flashback seem to be the style of the 80s and 90s. First we had Chariots of Fire, then Amadeus, then The Last Emperor, then Forrest Gump, and now The English Patient which all used variations of that same technique of telling a long story.

Although better than Elaine Benes had me believing, The English Patient was simply middle-of-the-road for me. I actually liked the story; it was the flashing back and forth between the past and present that was a bit too much for me. Had it gone just straight through chronologically, I think it would have been a better movie. But it won nine Oscars, so what the hell do I know?

I ended up ranking this 45th of the 66 movies we’ve seen, just ahead of the very similar Out of Africa. Next up is probably a two-parter with Titanic!


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