Reviewed by: Ken James
“The English Patient” is a compelling drama with a captivating and beautifully photographed story, but it is ensconsed in humanistic (Godless) ideology. Some serious issues are dealt with but, unfortunately, not tackled from a Bible-based perspective. From its strictly humanistic viewpoint this award-winning production deals with extramarital affairs, premarital sex, life without God, violence of war, death, suicide, and euthanasia.
The setting takes us to in Italy during World War II. A young French-Canadian nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche) is convinced that everyone she loves dies. Wanting to escape from the death-ridden life she knows, she yearns to care for her amnesiac/critically burned patient (Ralph Fiennes), and takes him into the rubble of a Tuscany monestary.
The patient—world-traveler Count Laszlo de Almasy of Budapest, Hungary—slips between reality and remembrance, reflecting on his colorful past and Katharine, the only woman he has ever loved. Unfortunately, she is married, and not to him. Through continuous flashbacks we learn that both were assigned to a map-making expedition in North Africa and that an obvious attraction existed between the two. But a mutual respect and lack of opportunity keep them from physical intimacy …until temptation became too great to bear.
Though he is now near death, the patient can recall (and viewers witness) seemingly every encounter with his lover during their assignment together. Eloquent thought and poetic remembrance captivate much of the dialogue and attempt to convince viewers that this match is true love. But, don’t be fooled: sex and romantic pursuit outside of marriage can never be “true” love. Fortunately, some of the consequences of adultery are explored in this story.
While the patient of noble birth is being cared for by Hana (the nurse), she takes pleasure in getting to know him. She begins to love him but becomes afraid that he, too, will die. The two of them are not alone for long in the abandoned monastery. Soon a mysterious fellow Canadian (an acquaintance of the Count), and two Allied soldiers arrive. One is a young Sikh known as Kip (whose primary responsibility is to defuse German bombs). Kip and Hana begin a short love affair marked by romance and beauty. But, Hana is afraid Kip will die, like everyone else she loves. His profession certainly does not help alleviate her fears, either.
Eventually, the past and the present meet, drawing to a sad conclusion. While all 160 minutes of this film are top-quality in terms of script, cinematography, etc., beware of the way that the condition of the human heart is dealt with in this story. The “English patient” is a self-proclaimed atheist, and makes reference to God only once when he says “There is no God,” which may be why he feels it is okay to be held to no moral standard. He continually soothes the speaking conscience of his lover by convincing her that everything is okay. While profanity is mostly non-existent, full frontal nudity and sexual situations are prevalent.
Year of Release—1996