My recent video binges have left me fairly unimpressed with the calibre of acting, photography and spectacle. There were some hours of entertainment, but nothing the memory of which did not fade very quickly.
Into this climate of indifference came two movies which made a deep impression on me: The English Patient and Mother Night (the latter film was reviewed in 1999 and is on my list to be seen again prior to revising my initial review).
Both of them aroused emotional tremors which have not yet subsided. Both of them moved me in ways so fundamental I have not yet resolved the terms of the experience or fully explained to myself the psychology which touched me so strongly.
And both films dealt with themes which I ought to be too young to care about, too naïve to internalise or too impatient to absorb: the excruciatingly painful loss of things held most dear in circumstances which relegate that pain to an insignificant aside on a much larger canvas of tragedy.
Michael Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient, turned into film, was first. Given the lavish praise it received from the art-house industry, it was a bit of a surprise to find myself actually wanting to see this film: the wankers in the industry so often gush about films which carry nothing more than pretentious style that I take their recommendations in the negative and stay away from their favourites.
What attracted me to the film were previews which showed such heartrendingly gorgeous cinematography, and such an odd assortment of players, that I grew curious.
One of the almost surreally beatiful scenes in the film: a plane over a sea of desert sand.
I was not disappointed. From the very first scene to the very last act, it was a mesmerising experience. I was sucked into the story as if I were drugged.
What touched me was the ambiguity of the characters, the uncertainty about their motivations, the randomness of the occurrences and the depth of the unfolding tragedy in their lives.