(Bethan) It's all this love affair of the century stuff that irritates
Yes, I agree, but the love story was not the reason why I loved TEP
so much. There was one scene which seemed to really convey the whole point
of the story (IMHO) which, by the way, was not about the affair. Hana is
taking care of Almásy in the monastery and, before she introduces
him to Caravaggio (who's waiting in the hall), she says something like:
"here's a war going on. Where you come from is important" and Almásy
says something to the effect that he hated that.
was all about nationality and how having to identify yourself with a nation
gets you in trouble. However, we live in a world in which where you come
from is everything. Almásy couldn't get to Katherine in time to
save her because he didn't have the right papers or have the right-sounding
last name. Geoffrey was the tool of the British government, having to hide
his identity as he risked his life making maps for the Allies, as it fought
against the others. Almásy was tragic in that he tried not to live
by the rules of working in the name of the nation, but instead, on his
own. Alas, he can't escape from that.
(Nan) I was thinking that he should walk around with his hair down
all the time
I did notice. I liked the way he let it down at night and became a
totally different person.
(Arami) All these nuances were lost or sacrificed in the film...Does
anyone know if Ondaatje was happy with these changes?
Agreed. I thought that Ondaatje's original version of the Katherine/Geoffrey/Almásy
relationship was far superior to the Minghella interpretation and much
more believable. It also covered themes of honour, friendship, betrayal,
trust, etc, which were barely touched on in the movie.
(Arami) Does anyone know if Ondaatje was happy with these changes?
Ondaatje had a funny story that he told about the rights to his story
being sold. In North Carolina, a suspected serial killer cut out the first
three pages of the novel and used them to write a note to the police. He
poked out the first letter in the beginning of each word. Ondaatje got
wind of it when he read it in the newspaper; right under that it was announced
that Miramax had bought the rights to the story (apparently, the publisher
neglected to tell Ondaatje). He thought it quite funny because this book
was deemed not movie material. He would not part with the story unless
he had input. Anthony Minghella came up with an outline of the novel and
presented it to Ondaatje. He was thrilled with what he did.
I may be the only one here, but I think Minghella did a great job with
what he had to work from. This book, for those of you who read it, seemed
impossible to become a movie. I understand why changes were made. It was
necessary in the telling of the story. When going over the part with Clifton
coming to the Gilf Kebir, it said that he was at Oxford, finished classes,
got married, and headed to the desert.
Almásy was much older than Katherine in the book. He must have
been at least 40. She had to be early 20s.
Yeah, the movie is excruciatingly long, beginning with the excruciatingly
long opening shot of someone doing the drawing with the brush. Took forever
and I only get through it without fast forwarding so I can watch Colin's
name in the credits. Still, just as Titanic can win a Best Picture
Oscar because of its overall effort and effects, despite so-so acting and
story, so can TEP win for its grand effort plus spectacular acting
despite a less than coherent story line. Even so, I still found the movie
easier to absorb than the book.
I liked Hana and Kip very much. They were the warmth of the film and
I'll include Geoffrey there. He brought life and fun to the desert. Do
you think they sat around playing games before he got there? I scoffed
at show-off Katherine's entertainment. These men must have been sorely
in need of female companionship to find her narration entertaining. I honestly
thought the "Banana" song and dance was cute. Santa kind of dampened my
Cute Geoffrey. "Uxorious, excessive love of one's wife." Adorable grin
after he kisses her. He looks delicious in his dinner jacket but I especially
like him in his braces at the office.
Favorite scene of him is leaving Katherine to go take "portraits" in Cairo
and walking with Almásy to the plane. "Why are you people so threatened
by a woman?" Doesn't sound buffoonish to me there.
I believe Katherine when she says her marriage is not a fiction.
My sympathies are never with Katherine but I do feel for Almásy.
I think Katherine would be prone to many affairs. She tantalizes and constantly
flirts with him. He fights it. I think she even enjoys tormenting A with
the expression of her guilt.
(Winter) TEP was all about nationality...Almásy was
tragic in that he tried not to live by the rules of working in the name
of the nation, but instead, on his own.
Very good, you brought the point of the book back to me. I remember
thinking the same thing. The movie, however, does not convey this and sought
to portray a grand love affair and perhaps to contrast it with the more
innocent, "pure" one between Hana and Kip.
May I interrupt ladies? You were asking about Ondaatje's input in to
the film. I once saw an interview with Ondaatje and Minghella, which made
it clear that the two of them worked closely together on the set and were
very happy with the changes in the story line. However, the interviewer,
a very smart lady, asked an absolute killer question, something like: "I
can see why Almásy fell in love with Katherine, but why on earth
did she fall in love with him?" Both men looked absolutely blank. Ondaatje
then said, rather shame-facedly, that he really had no idea.
I think this explains why everyone is so ambivalent about the book and
the movie. Plus the fact that anyone who would give up Colin for anybody
needs to see a shrink!
(Caroline) "I can see why Almásy fell in love with Katherine,
but why on earth did she fall in love with him?"
Cracks me up that neither had an answer for the above question. I still
believe that neither Katherine nor Almásy was in love, just lust
(at least in the movie).
In the book, when the count gets ready to leave her to get help, she
makes him promise to come and get her and if she is dead to make sure that
her body is sent back to England to be buried in her garden, among the
flowers in the place she loves, with the things she loves. She tells him
that she really did love Geoffrey.
It seems to be a general opinion that Geoffrey already knows/suspects
that Katherine betrayed him when he meets Almushy and Katherine rejects
him in the marzipan scene. Or even that he knows Katherine will betray
him when she dances with Almushy.
believe that he may be frustrated at Katherine's rejection but has no suspicion
at all that something may be going on until he observes her from the car
on her way to the pencil-legged lizard with the rolling accent.
Did anyone else see the parallels between the characters of Almushy
and Geoffrey on one side and Darcy and Bingley? On the one side, the dark,
enigmatic, haughty, cynic, moody, proud aristocrat with a high opinion
of his own value—just the type women fall for :-). The other one an easy,
friendly, gentle, polite, sociable friend for everyday use.
More parallels, anyone? Contradictions?
When I read discussions about TEP I cannot help wonder how different
the discussion and our opinions would be if the casting had been a bit
different and Colin played the Count. I am convinced that the movie would
rise tremendously in most droolers opinion :-). And, yes, I admit, I am
awfully prejudiced myself.
(Heide) I believe Katherine when she says her marriage is not a
But that can mean something very simple, i.e., she is stating a fact
that she and Geoffrey are legally married, much in the same way that she
is stating the fact that Geoffrey is not a buffoon in reality. Laura read
the"whirlwind" courtship section to me and the way that little passage
sounded to me was that it was arranged for purposes of Geoffrey's cover.
(Winter) TEP was all about the nationality and how having
to identify yourself with a nation gets you in trouble.
(Heide) The movie, however, does not convey this and sought to portray
a grand love affair
I think the real meaning of the book was totally overlooked when they
made the movie. It is not a strong nor believable love story (K/A); it
comes across as pure lust and nothing more. However, your comments *almost*
make me want to watch the movie again with those thoughts in mind (somebody,
please slap me) to see if my own preference toward simple romances clouded
my views. But on the other hand, I shouldn't have to work so hard to get
to the meaning of this movie and for that I fault the director.
(Caroline) Ondaatje and Minghella...worked closely together on the
I don't doubt that this was said in the interview but in reality the
writer of the original work is the last person anybody wants on a set.
The next to last person would be the screenwriter if someone other than
the original author. If Ondaatje was actually there, it would be highly
unusual. The only time a screenwriter is welcomed on the set is when he
and the director are one and the same.
how different the discussion and our opinion of the movie would be if the
casting had been a bit different and Colin played the Count.
I've often wondered this as well; the chicken and the egg riddle. However,
I tend to think that Colin would do a much better job as the Count. He
has so much more depth than that other guy.
(Renate) I am convinced that the movie would rise tremendously in
most droolers opinion :-).
Just think of the bath scene. Whoops, I fell off my chair.
(Caroline) Both men looked absolutely blank. Ondaatje then said,
rather shame-facedly, that he really had no idea.
I think Ondaatje's inability to answer this proves circumstantially
that he was not involved. A writer would have an answer to such a simple
(Karen) the writer of the original work is the last person anybody
wants on a set
That was my point. It was not an interview designed to promote the
movie. It was one of those "Making of" things about a Canadian author,
who having written a worldwide bestseller went on to sit next to the director
every day of the shooting. A lot of the footage showed the filming of the
Cairo scenes in Venice and the Tuscany scenes too. It was on a Canadian
arts channel, and Ondaatje and Minghella were the main characters of the
program. They made the point that it's an unusual thing to do.
(Renate) Did anyone else see the parallels between the characters
of Almushy and Geoffrey on one side and Darcy and Bingley?
but Geoffrey had hidden depths, which Katherine knew. He was only playing
the Bingley-ish overgrown public-school- boy type. He was really a very
competent pilot and a British intelligence officer, carrying out potentially
dangerous aerial surveillance. And he obviously trusted his wife. Why else
would he leave her alone in the desert in the company of men? The screenplay
just isn't convincing, unless you take Katherine as a flirt who wants a
sexual fling. It's the only interpretation that works.
Re: the novel and whether Katherine and Geoffrey's marriage was real
(i.e., based on love)
I can only repeat the line (which I like) about "the husband they both
loved until they fell in love with each other." I thought that in the novel
Katherine and Geoffrey loved each other at first, and he continued to adore
her, although she outgrew him.
(Caroline) Ondaatje then said, rather shame-facedly, that he really
had no idea.
That sounds just like a man, doesn't it?
I tend to think that Colin would do a much better job as the Count. He
has so much more depth than that other guy.
Absolutely! I've thought about this a lot. Ralph Fiennes seems to depend
so heavily on the script and his vocal inflections to express himself and
IMHO has a somewhat limited range of facial expressions. Colin on the other
hand has an extremely broad range of facial expressions and can convey
an extraordinary amount of things without any voice or script support at
all. If Colin *had* done the Count, I honestly believe he would have added
enough subtleties of his own to make the love story completely believable.
(Bethan) Ah, but Geoffrey had hidden depths....He was only playing
the Bingley-ish overgrown public-school-boy-type.
You seem to imply that Bingley was a nothing? I always thought this
character as portrayed by Crispin Bonham-Carter was such a likeable and
valuable person, who may have some hidden depths himself! It was a pity
for him (both character and actor) to stand in the huge shadow of the overwhelming
Darcy (both character and actor) for he could have carried a similar miniseries
by himself. In a modern version (let's say taking place in the forties)
of P&P, Bingley could very likely have been a pilot and officer.
But you are right insofar as it is impossible to imagine Bingley doing
a suicide plus killing for revenge (let alone his wife Jane shagging a
(Bethan) the line...about "the husband they both loved until they
fell in love with each other."
That sounds very promising, but I don't think anything can make me
take up the novel again. In the film there was no hint of a friendship
between the three of them or the two men. Now, that would have given the
desert love story a wonderful dimension and would have suggested that Almásy
is capable of a wider range of human emotions (not just amour fou) and
that would make it easier to bring him together with the later patient.
Come to think of it, both characters don't seem to have much in common.
The desert Almásy has no real depth whatsoever, but the English
patient has. Or do I read too much into him?
I think TEP suffers from too many interesting characters, some
of them (the desert trio) not well-developed. You just have to take for
granted what happens without getting to know why (if it's not the hormones).
I was thinking that one of the great things about TEP is Colin
Firth in a tux. Can this guy wear a tux or what!
When he is sitting in the car waiting for her and tearing hearts out
of the paper makes me want to cry. He again does more acting without opening
his mouth than anyone I've ever seen. He has the most expressive eyes.
RF is knock kneed and looks dreadful in shorts but I am biased. I don't
like him, his eyes are dead.
I was talking to a couple of co-workers about Colin Firth and was pleased
that they had noticed him in TEP and found him "very goog-looking."
(Gi) I was talking to a couple of co-workers about Colin Firth and
was pleased that they had noticed him in TEP and found him "very
Goog-looking?! :-) I'm glad to hear it though! I think that one of
the things that really irked me about TEP was the thought of all
these thousands of women rushing to see RF while Colin played a role, the
essential function of which was to be overlooked. After Darcy, it just
seemed a tad ironic! I hope he was noticed by a few more!