Where has The English Patient been all my life? How can it be that it was made in 1996 ( .. ’96! .. that’s way more than 10 years ago) and I hadn’t seen it until tonight? Even worse, Michael Ondaatje’s book was published in 1992, and won the Booker … and I haven’t read that either. What have I been doing these past 15 years …?
That is A Good Question. Possibly for consideration in another post. Possibly.
Anyway: Tony – bless him – bailed after about 20 minutes, saying: “hmm .. no, sorry .. this isn’t really doing it for me”. Me, on the other hand … well: it had me by the throat from the beginning. And by the end (OK … around 45 minutes from the end, probably; and every minute thereafter) I was sobbing inconsolably. I think this is one of the reasons I adore NetFlix (or home cinema in general). I’d feel a little inhibited in a cinema, where – with a few noble exceptions – the rending of garments is moderately frowned upon. But, at home, you can weep until your sofa cushions are sodden; and there’s no-one to care except …
Hmmmm. Why is it that cinema has this effect on me? Films (or any combination of sound and vision) have the power to completely sweep me away – for good or ill – in a way that I’ve found in few other people. Often I really, really wish that I had sole access to – and control over – my ’emotions’ remote-control. But almost as often – like tonight – I think it’s a brilliant lightening-rod.
My thoughts aren’t organized enough – yet – to explain quite why this film had me by the throat. There are obvious personal connections (Egypt; the war in Italy, where Dad was). But also some more universal things, like the awful moral choices we’ve become luxuriously immune (for now) from having to make ourselves.