Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA/United Kingdom, 1996. Miramax. Screenplay by Anthony Minghella, based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje. Cinematography by John Seale. Produced by Saul Zaentz. Music by Gabriel Yared. Production Design by Stuart Craig. Costume Design by Ann Roth. Film Editing by Walter Murch. Academy Awards 1996. Boston Film Critics Awards 1996. Golden Globe Awards 1996. National Board of Review Awards 1996.
Gorgeous and intelligent adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s more internal novel, perfectly directed by Anthony Minghella and featuring one of the best casts of the year. Originally to be produced by Twentieth Century-Fox, the studio pulled out of the project when Minghella held out for his less bankable casting suggestions (the studio wanted Demi Moore); the project was finally saved when Miramax decided to take on the film (albeit with a smaller budget). The gamble paid off, and thanks to Minghella’s staying true to his vision the film is one of the best and most accomplished of the decade. Ralph Fiennes plays an Eastern European working for the British government as a mapmaker in the middle east who meets a married Englishwoman (Kristin Scott Thomas) and falls in love with her, despite his being a colleague of her staid husband (Colin Firth). He relates this story many years later in a sickbed after having been burnt terribly in an airplane accident, to a kindly nurse (Juliette Binoche) who listens to his story and develops a bond with him. Binoche, meanwhile, romances an Indian bomb expert (Naveen Andrews) looking for mines near the Tuscan villa that she is occupying with Fiennes. Gorgeously photographed by John Seale, this is a worthy war epic that is right up there with all the David Lean greats, a tragic love story that stays with you for days and is of the highest filmmaking quality. Binoche is particularly brilliant, a perfectly natural, excellently nuanced performance that will go down as among her very best. Scott Thomas deservedly moved herself to the highest ranks with this role, and Fiennes also received much well-earned attention.