FF111 - The English Patient

Intro by Adam Pranica

A love triangle is not the kind of subplot that I prefer in war films because naturally I prefer submarines as both plot and subplot. What is it about a war movie that so often invites these conflicts into them? Often it is a messy love triangle, pitting flyboy against flyboy for the love of a nurse or an angry wife left at home who "… can never understand, man, why I gotta go back out there for another tour!" and sometimes it is a woman who simply needs to know what expendable means.

It could be that these characters and storylines are unappreciated because they are relegated to the periphery. After all, would you rather see fighter planes taking off from aircraft carriers or the fed-up wife taking the kids to her parents for a while? I know what I choose!

What makes the English patient different is that it elevates the love triangle story into A-story, turning war into a place where this romance can play out and fully develops the characters using non-linear storytelling. It is like if Pulp Fiction was a film your mom could jack it too. Anyway: Ralph Fiennes plays Almásy, a sort of Indiana Jones type, if Indiana Jones was also into The Cure.

He has got the hots for Kristin Scott Thomas' Katherine Clifton, who is going behind the back of her husband Geoffrey, played by Colin Firth. Geoffrey has got a much better airplane than Almásy, which kind of makes you hate him until you see how dirty Kathryn does him. You don't know if Geoffrey knows until it suddenly becomes very clear when he decides to use his plane in a way we can never forget.

But alliances are what this movie is all about. Are we supposed to root for Almásy and Katherine to make it? It sure feels that way! Their romance begins forbidden, like all the hardest ones do, and then it evolves into the kind of Ghazi-sensual "My favorite part of your body will never be appreciated by your husband" kind of thing that invariably fizzles when the other man finds out, necessitating the breakup, and now you are actually committed to each other, paying the mortgage, raising your kids. Before long you have long forgotten all about your favorite mole on their body.

Juliette Binoche's nurse character falls for Almásy, too! What is it with this guy? But the reason we remain suspicious about him is Willem Dafoe as Caravaggio, there to poke all kinds of holes in the sympathy he engenders from her. I think you will find today is film better than Seinfeld made you believe, on today's Friendly Fire, as we discussed the 1996 nine-time Academy Award winning The English Patient.

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