Posted by: Pinar Tarhan | July 5, 2009

When adultery is okay,part 2: The English Patient

The English Patient (1996)

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Naveen Andrews, William Dafoe, Colin Firth



Do not condemn me morally corrupt before reading all of the post. I am a hopeless romantic in general and value loyalty above all in relationships. But yet there are movies depicting a story so well, and so impressively that you find yourself rooting for characters that you could normally despise. Or, sometimes the person who is being cheated on is such a bastard-pardon the language- and the potential lover so dreamy, you actually can not wait for your lead to start an affair. The latter is the case in Revenge and in The Scarlet Letter (it will be featured in part 3). However The English Patient, you can’t help but like the husband from the beginning. It belongs to the first category…So let’s get to the story,shall we?

WWII. Julitte Binoche plays a nurse who is taking care of a badly burnt patient (Ralph Fiennes). He is in tremendous pain. We get to see what happened to him through flashbacks: a story about love,passion and obsession beyond anything and everything else that engrosses us. Did it sound too much like a tagline? Sorry, how his tale made me feel…


The patient is Count Laszlo de Almasy, a Hungarian map maker. Along with other explorers he is working at the Sahara Desert.Among the people he met are a British couple Katharine and Geoffrey-played by Scott-Thomas and Colin Firth. Almasy is instantly taken by Katharine and he actually treats her badly as he becomes more attracted. He is also as opposite to her husband as one can get. Count is distant,quite,mysterious and ranges from overly polite to excessively rude. Her husband is polite,friendly,nice,loving and modern.So much that when he needs to leave for a mission for a couple of days, he is trusting enough to leave his wife among a bunch of men on a desert.Despite Almasy’s suggestions that he shouldn’t.Witnessing this,Katharine is sure that this weird man despises her. But during the time her husband is away, she sees through Almasy. Discovering the inside of caves together and being stranded on the desert during a sandstorm change things. Also, Katharine gets to read his journal where he has put his fascination with her into words.

The connection and attraction are undeniable. When they get back, they have sex. Although it seems more about obsession and lust, the intimacy afterwards is sincere and affectionate.

The second time also doesn’t seem romantic at all. It is quick,impatient and rough. But then there are these moments where they look like high school kids in love.

And then she finishes off. She is feeling guilty already. He doesn’t take it well. He gets into a jealous fit. She also doesn’t know but her husband actually did see them together. The way Ralph Fiennes can turn Almasy’s charm on and off is very impressive. He gives you many reasons to not to sympathize with his character. He has an affair with a married woman, and seems to have a clear conscience about it.But then it all changes,at least in my eyes…


The husband tried to crash his plane into Almasy.Almasy dodges the attack,

but Geoffrey is already dead. And what’s worse is that Katharine was also on the plane and she is severely injured. English-Patient_lAs Almsay carries her towards the cave, we see his painful expression. When Katharine says that she has always loved him, he is in tears. And well so is most of the audience. This is the second and only other film I got teary. You feel his pain. You feel his love. The questions you might have had about the nature of their relationship and their feelings are gone. The husband you felt so sorry for, has now become the guy who (almost) kill his wife. And the guy who seemed more obsessed than in love, takes care of her in the cave on the desert. He decided to do impossible. He walks through the desert for three days, so that he might get to take her out of there and help her survive. But he faces all sorts of misfortune, does everything he can and gets back. Bu when he arrives, she is gone. This time he carries her out of the cave,tears of desperation flowing. The expression on his face is so painful and so powerful that it has stayed with me.And I saw the movie when it first came out…

Of course it is wrong to cheat on your husband. Of course it is dispeakable to cheat on the guy you willingly married and have been friends with and who has treated you just right. But then it is worse to try to kill your wife, yourself and try to kill her lover in the process as well. You wish that Almasy could have gotten a happy ending. His love for Katharine is so strong that you just feel that kind of love is above any rule or principle.And I would probably prefer to love and be loved like , over living a long,yet passionless life.

Of course there is more to the movie than the adultery.

The scenery is amazing. Written and directed by Anthony Minghella has done an amazing job. The movie has won 9 Oscars and I disagree with none. I think Ralph should have gotten best actor. His performance is amazing both as the healthy and horribly burnt Almasy. This is the first time I saw Naveen Andrews-his pre-Lost era- who plays the love interest of Hanna-the nurse Binoche is playing. Dafoe’s conflicted and interesting character adds mystery. This is the movie that made me a compulsive Ralph fan. Colin Firth plays the plain yet loving husband wonderfully- so wonderfully that I had no idea I would later consider him as a hearthrob, starting with his role in Bridget Jones. Is this a movie to be enjoyed by everyone? No. It might seem too long or like a sentimental piece of crap. It might seem just OK or like a master piece. You just have to check it out if you haven’t seen it already and decide for yourselves.

Naveen as Kip,pre-Sayid era

Naveen as Kip,pre-Sayid era

Juliette as Hana

Juliette as Hana

William Dafoe

William Dafoe

Colin Firth as the "wronged" husband

Colin Firth as the "wronged" husband



  1. I liked this film full with great and true emotions. I’m Hungarian so I know that this story is a fiction . Count Almásy survived the WWII and died in 1952. He was treated as an English spy, but later he was released from imprisonment. It’s a very nice well-composed fantasy-full big film with wonderful acting. First of all Ralph Fiennes who is soul-stirring. ( Oscar was denied from him the second time and still up to now) But Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas, Naveen Andrews, Willem Defoe were very -very good and poignant too. I know that today big feelings are out of fashion, but I don’t shame myself:I like it.

  2. It is such an epic film. I wish people would keep making movies like this. Such a shame Anthony Mighella died…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: