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Film facts
Plot summary
General comments
Comments by Colin
Comments about Colin
Reviews of  The English Patient
Favorite Quotes
Web links
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This complex film, adapted from Michael Ondaatje's evocative haunting novel, weaves plot and time and place in an intricate, ever more revealing dance. Set in Italy at the at the end of World War II, and in flashbacks to North Africa in the 1930's, the main thread concerns Count Laslo Almasy (Fiennes), a desert explorer, who had been horribly burned in a mysterious airplane crash, and his relationship with - in the present - his nurse Hana (Juliet Binoche), and in the past - his lover, Katharine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas). Katharine's husband of two years, Geoffrey Clifton (Colin Firth), who has known her from childhood, is a seemingly hearty Englishman whose jovial manner hides a life full of secrets and passions.

Hana, a French Canadian nurse, meets Kip (Naveen Andrews), a demolitions expert with the American army who is by nationality an Indian, and a Sikh. Their romance is carried out against the background of the remote Italian convent where Hana has taken the English Patient to die.


About Colin's Character:

This outstanding film gave Colin Firth a chance to play the pivotal character in the Katharine/Almasy portion of the movie. His portrayal of a "typical English gentleman" of the time, but one who held secrets behind his amiable facade, was understated and delicate. Though limited in screen time, he left a lasting impression, especially in the scene where he watched his unfaithful wife return from an assignation. He also had a key part in the tragic scene that ends the relationship of Katharine and Almasy.

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"You can't come on stage and act grief-stricken. That's histrionic. I think when you come on stage trying to be happy and then fight against grief, that's moving." [The Guardian, Feb. 10, 1996]

It "centers on five people, of whom I'm not one. I'm a rich champagne-toting English buffoon. My wife has an affair with Ralph's Fiennes's character. I discover the affair and turn out not to be a buffoon. . . "  11/10/96--Bart Mills's interview

On his role: "It was the English thing: violent emotion and pain well-disguised by jauntiness."

Coming soon: URL link to Jane's Firth articles page, for the full-length versions of articles from which quotes are taken.


  • Anthony Minghella: "Colin is delicate." (Is that the same as subtle?) "Subtlety is nothing to do with acting --

  • it's how you put your fingers down on the piano keys -- he's delicate." [The Guardian, Feb. 10, 1996]
  • Firth had previously worked with Minghella: he had the role of Richard II in the 1986 London radio production of a Minghella play Two Planks and a Passion.

  • From Harper's Bazaar, May 1996, Laurie Winer [Mingella says,] "He's a fantastically good actor. There's a kind of

  • transparency to Colin's inner life that only the best actors have. He has to do very little, it seems, to give you access to his inner being."
  • That quality was needed in the English Patient. Minghella describes one scene from the movie, in which Firth's character, Geoffrey Clifton, return to his hotel to pick up something he's forgotten and sees his wife (played by Kristen Scott-Thomas) dash out, clearly for an assignation. Firth sits in a cab outside the hotel all night, waiting for her return. The film cuts back and forth between his expectant face and the tender love scene being played out elsewhere. "Nothing happens, but it's a tremendous scene, because you're very sympathetic to Kristin, but Colin keeps pulling the point of view around to him," says Minghella. "He brings a gravitas to a character who could be something of a buffoon."



    Coming soon: URL link to Jane's Firth articles page, for the full-length versions of articles from which
    quotes are taken.


    Colin gets to perform a delightful sequence around a desert campfire in a game of "Forfeits." He must sing and dance to
    "Yes, We Have No Bananas," and sing and dance he does in the most charming manner.

    To see a small animation of Colin in this scene, click HERE.

    Factual errors
    The German paratroopers are wearing English uniforms and using English parachutes.

    A British sergeant wears a Sunderland Football Club scarf with a logo not designed until the 1970s.

    At The Hollywood premiere

    "Ralph seems to get all the women in this movie. It's never going to happen again."

    Click on the above words for Colin's voice at the Hollywood premiere. He was interviwed briefly on E! in their coverage of the premiere. He attended with Alan Cumming and some friends. Some of the FOF were there to see him and get autographs.

    As Clifton listens to a drunken Almasy tell the whole dinner party more than he should about Katharine, he begins to plot his revenge.

    Click HERE to read an imagined last letter to Katharine from Geoffrey

    REVIEWS of The English Patient

    Lisa Warrington (The Friends of Firth):

    I was particularly taken by the visual imagery Anthony Minghella created, and that's what I'm going to talk about here.

    I thought much of the film was exquisite, in its own terms. I also was delighted by the novel, and I see the changes and things omitted, though I like the film just for what it is - and I think it has its own poetry and imagery - which brings me to the opening image of the movie....

    Click HERE to read the rest of Lisa's Review.

    The Boston Globe, November 22, 1996: "A sand-swept epic that pierces the heart," Jay Carr, The Boston Globe, November 22, 1996, Pg. E9.
    "The English Patient" begins with a great, spellbinding image - of a vintage prop plane's shadow passing over an undulating, seductively contoured orange desert. To see it is to be magically transported back in time and to be filled with both wonder and dread - wonder at the evocative visual poetry that is still the province of film, dread at the odds against the rest of the film living up to the power of that image....

    Click HERE to read the rest of this review

    Time Magazine: NOVEMBER 11, 1996 VOL. 148 NO. 22

    Rapture In The Dunes by Richard Corliss

    From their green, damp, congested homelands, Europeans come to the North African desert and fall in love--as if into quicksand--with the dry vastness. Like T.E. Lawrence, they are awed by the womanly contours of the great desert dunes. Soon their faces are bronzed, their limbs burnished, their hair bleached, until they are the color of sand. These nomads-by-choice have become the Sahara.

    Click HERE to read the rest of this review


    "Uxuriousness..that's my favorite kind of love. Excessive love of one's wife."

    Click HERE to hear Colin say these words.


    LW "rating system":

    ***** Superb/breathtaking/heartstopping/etc
    **** Excellent
    *** Very pleasing
    ** Still lovely, but . . .
    * Bad hair day

    Personal Ratings:

    ***** Colin's looks
    ***** Colin's acting ability
    ***** The film in general
    **** Ranking in the films of Colin Firth
    ***** Watchability & rewind factor


    To come: Friends of Firth "The English Patient" ratings


    Visit Murph's "The English Patient" Book Store


    Lawrence of Arabia

    Reading Guide Questions

    WWII In North Africa

    Back to Main Roles page

    The Original Friends of Firth Website

    Lisbeth's Colin Firth Timeline

    The Sound Track

    Video/DVD Source

    Ken Follett's A Key To Rebecca

    Sharon's English Patient Snappys

    Lisa's Overview of Colin's Career

    Colin At War Fashions Page

    Murph's TEP page


    The English Patient Academy Awards -- 1997

    Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
    Stuart Craig 
    Stephanie McMillan 
    Best Cinematography
    John Seale 
    Best Costume Design
    Ann Roth 
    Best Director
    Anthony Minghella 
    Best Film Editing
    Walter Murch 
     Best Music, Original Dramatic Score
    Gabriel Yared 
    Best Picture
    Saul Zaentz 
    Best Sound
    Mark Berger 
    Walter Murch 
    Christopher Newman (I) 
    David Parker (III) 
    Best Supporting Actress
    Juliette Binoche 

    Nominated Oscar Best Actor
    Ralph Fiennes
    Best Actress
    Kristin Scott Thomas
    Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
    Anthony Minghella


    This page written/assembled by Murph - Edited by Janet

    It is part of a Firthland project on the films of Colin Firth.

    Visit Murph's website- includes listings for other Firth websites

    Snappy photos taken from video by Sharon

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