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Mr. Anthony Minghella

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anthony Minghella has died at the age of 54. I never knew the man, but I have been affected by his career for a good chunk of my life. The relationship began before I knew who he was, and it was made permanent when I saw his film adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s novel, The English Patient.

I was 17 and I loved it. I didn’t know who Anthony Minghella was, but that didn’t matter. For me, The English Patient represents a watershed moment in my appreciation of “cine-ma”. The adaptation of Ondaatje’s novel is perfect, the acting is spot-on, the photography gorgeous, Gabriel Yared’s music is haunting and beautiful, and Walter Murch’s editing is impeccable. Can I throw in any more words of praise?

I eagerly awaited his next film, and when it came, it did not disappoint. The Talented Mr. Ripley is great film – despite the fact that my professor of Italian cinema regarded it as yet another film about Italy that depicted the country as a constantly sunny, beautiful, timeless place (i.e. not realistic). But never-the-less, I’ve seen Ripley at least four times and I’m always impressed with it. It introduced me to Jude Law, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and it gave me a new appreciation for Matt Damon as an actor. I was inspired to read the Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith, and I could immediately see the attraction that Minghella, and indeed other great filmmakers, have had in bringing the Ripley character to the screen.

Minghella seemed to pop up in surprising places in my life, whether it was watching episodes of Inspector Morse that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid, and discovering that he had written some of the screenplays, or receiving the Jim Henson series, The Storyteller, on DVD as a gift (another series I had seen as a child and loved) and discovering that again, he had written many of the episodes. These are mere coincidences, but it suggests that he had an influence, however small, on my developing aesthetic tastes at an early age.Cold Mountain, his next feature after Ripley, I only liked so-so. The film was well-acted, and I could appreciate a lot of the directorial touches, but the movie didn’t grab me the way his other two did. Breaking and Entering, his last theatrical feature, was okay – there were things that I enjoyed very much, but it did tend to drag slightly, and this, coupled with the fact that the story itself wasn’t as interesting as I would have liked, made it a disappointing film. However, even a mediocre Minghella film could probably stand up to a second viewing, and perhaps I could find more to appreciate.

I ran into Minghella on the Isle of Wight, while Sarah and I were travelling around England in 2003. Or, rather, we passed by the Minghella Ice Cream factory. It was a fairly large store, but unfortunately, we were on a bus, and couldn’t stop to go inside. But I remember remarking about the name of the shop, Minghella, and wondering aloud whether there was any connection to Anthony Minghella. Fast forward a couple of years, and we happened across a show about Minghella on television, and they mentioned that he was the child of Italian immigrants, who had settled on the Isle of Wight and operated an ice cream factory for the last 50 years – they even made special ice cream to coincide with the premier of every one of Minghella’s films, I think champagne was the flavour used for The English Patient. I wish we had stopped.

At the end of The English Patient, when Juliet Binoche leaves the Italian villa for the final time, she watches the sun flickering through the trees as the truck she is on drives away. The final shot is overexposed, and looks like the sun is bleeding through the trees, enveloping them and the world with its light and heat. And as I watched, tears forming in my eyes, knowing that the film was about to end, I thought to myself, “fade to white”, and it did, and the film was over. The perfect ending to a perfect film.

Fifty-four years old is far too young for anyone to die, let alone a gifted artistic figure like Minghella. Here’s to all the films he never got to make, and here’s to the ones he left us.

” . . . We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we’ve entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we’ve hidden in . . . I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you’ll come carry me out to the Palace of Winds. That’s what I’ve wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps . . .”

Words spoken by Katherine Clifton (played by Kristen Scott Thomas) in The English Patient.llewopemearg

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, March 18, 2008 2:24 pm


    You got it!!!

    You know this is one of my favorites movies. I have seen it many times, and i still can see new masseges in it.
    This kind of are difficult to fine on again, if you have seen someting similar pleace talk to me about it.

    Yolanda Garcia

    Karpe Diem

  2. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:36 pm

    Love the fade to white, too.

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