The English Patient ★★★★★

"I'll always go back to that church, and look at my paintings."
"I'll always go back to that church."
"One day we'll meet."

"Read me to sleep."

Dissecting this movie in any way seems to go against what I believe is its whole point… it's a movie I've generally just let wash over me in the past without really thinking what it's about, just that it really moved me in ways no other movie did, and that's probably the way it should be seen.

I think one of the defining threads here that really stuck with me from the very first time I saw it is Almasy's mini-obsession with the place on Katherine's neck. When he first points it out to her it's an innocent, honest, beautiful confession about a particular thing he really likes about her body. But he pursues it, asking a friend what that place is called. Later that friend mentions in passing, it's called the "suprasternal notch", and Almasy's face sinks - all the poetry has suddenly been sucked out of it by the truth. There are elements here that would be repeated a couple of years later in another Ralph Fiennes movie I actually love more, "The End of the Affair" - at one point in that movie he talks about happiness as being nowhere near as interesting as sadness - after you get what you want you don't want it… but when you lose it, you'll miss it like hell.

In my favourite scene Kip hands Hannah a flare which illuminates the art of a church, and hauls her around the place using other equipment he presumably possesses for his job of diffusing mines and bombs. Using the paraphernalia of war for love. Later, Kip is nearly killed as a celebratory truck rumbles overhead as he tries to defuse another bomb - the war is over, yet it really isn't, the seeds are planted everywhere both physically and emotionally. Katherine excuses her adulterous behaviour to herself during wartime by saying, "here it's a different life, I'm a different wife". It's really a movie about what is true and whether that really matters, especially when it comes to love, especially in such compromising, life or death circumstances, when the world is already too mad to even think about "silly" things like love - I've actually suddenly just realised as I wrote that, it's nowhere near as different a movie to Anthony Minghella's followup The Talented Mr Ripley as I used to think.

I'm making a mess here, but I guess what I'm saying is, I probably over-watched this in the late 90s/early 2000s… yet, nearly 20 years later, I still see huge depths in it I've yet to explore as I grow. I didn't even mention how jaw-droppingly beautiful it looks and sounds - I can almost accept that this was the movie that beat out Fly Away Home for the cinematography Oscar that year.