The English Patient is a serious emotional drama, which contains many threads to the intricate story. The backdrop of wartime and death add to the dramatic themes and the ending sequence is clearly wrapped in emotion, love and sadness. The stories are told through intermittent flashbacks from the tragic past of the horrifically burnt patient, now being nursed by Hana who has undoubtedly experienced hard times herself. The lighting and colour in the ending sequence have been used effectively to reflect the different moods and feelings at each point in the story.
There are three main sections to this extract each with heir own style of lighting and colour. The first section set inside the abandoned chateau appears to us as gloomy and dull. Low-key lighting has been used to give this effect and we see the English patient in dim shadowed light to reflect the sombre mood and obvious agonising continual tiredness and pain felt by the patient. The only source of ‘natural’ light comes from outside, far out of reach for the patient. Even this light can offer no comfort for him as it only briefly touches upon Hana.
This has been done to show that Hana is the only worthwhile thing left for him. She an offer him hope in the form of euthanasia, an escape from his agonising pain. As the scene moves on it becomes apparent that the patient is taking this option of death, the lighting becomes subtly brighter to signal the new hope for him. The colours in these chateau scenes are plain and dull. This has been done to display the serious deathly mood. There are no vibrantly coloured objects in the room, just beiges and greys. In fact the scenes look as if they have been washed over with cold blue tones.
Blue filters may have been used on the lighting to produce this effect. This is odd as usually blue is very symbolic of memory in ilms and these scenes are set in the present. The reason for this ties in with the lighting in the next section of the extract. The second section set in the caves and desert has a great contrast with the first. The dominant orange and red colours of the desert setting bring life and vigour to the screen. These scenes supposedly come from the patient’s memory. The brightness and clarity used here give us the impression that the past rather than the cold blue present is more vivid and real.
I think this is symbolises that the memory of love and love itself never fades even through the truggles of life and especially in the case of the patient, when life can no longer be felt or matter and draws to its end. There is love beyond death and nothing can alter that. The final piece of the sequence returns to the present time once the patient has died. The lighting here is far brighter with a more natural daylight look to it. However even now the characters are still shaded from the light. The wagon drives down a track lined with trees and only moments of light fall upon Hana.
The camera cuts to the image of the trees flashing and flickering intense sunlight onto the creen and finally into the sun itself, blazing pure drowning white light, the credits roll over this in black leaving us literally dazzled by this short clip and the whole film. This effect of the flashing sunlight could symbolise the hard steps that need to be taken to achieve peace or the moving on of each character. Either way it gives us a reassuring feeling at the end of this tragic film. The use of sound in this extract is clearly important in establishing the mood.
The sound has been used in such a way that the audience who have become attached to the characters in the film feel he strong powerful emotions. There is a mixture of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds at the beginning. To start with we can hear the diegetic sounds of Hana preparing the morphine clearly. This draws our attention to what she is doing so it is obvious that it is important to the story. We can also hear the heavy breathing of the patient and feel we can share his experience through the disconcerting uncomfortable sounds he makes.
Hana can also hear this pain so we can understand why she agrees to end his life. Non-diegetic music begins as the patient tips the medicine. It is slow and constant in a orrowful minor key. The music is almost painful in the way that it is frustratingly repetitive, but at the same time echoes the tragic distressed themes of the film. As the story flicks back in time to the desert we can hear no diegetic sounds. We can clearly see Ralph Fiennes crying as he carries his lover out of the cave. This is very effective because we expect to hear his crying but we only hear the persistent music.
This makes us feel that because the feelings of sadness and pain are so overwhelming, all other senses are blocked out and the viewer’s emotions are carried by the louder music. To add to this we can hear both the voice of Hana and Katherine reading the letter alternately. The sounds are bridged over the present and memory scenes as the story weaves back and forth. We are caught up in the story hearing and seeing things as they are as they were and from the point of view of the patient. This can be somewhat dizzying but makes the audience concentrate and appreciate the details of the film more.
The story returns to the chateau once the English patient has died and presumably been buried. The chateau is left empty and the filmmakers emphasize this by using echoes in the building. The music is still playing to the end of the film but now it has changed tempo slightly and carries the same tune but feels more upbeat. This is used to give the effect of moving on and leaving behind the bad times as Hana is doing. The editing in this sequence has been done carefully in order to juggle the multiple storylines.
The intermittent flashbacks could be distracting and hard to follow but at this point in the film, the plots are finally unravelling and things are becoming clearer to us. This clarity is shown by the use of straight cuts between scenes of the memory and present. The cuts are quite fast as the patient asks for his life to end in order to make the atmosphere dramatic. While Hana is reading the scenes appear longer and smoother because the patient is finally at rest or on his way to peace. There is one dissolve in this sequence from the desert scenes to the empty chateau.
This method of cutting has been used to show time passing from the last flashback. The use of the camera has given this sequence a sense of ending but of new beginnings as well. We see Hana hitching a ride to Florence on the back of a wagon and the camera cuts from the shot of the biplane lying off into the Sahara skies back to a shot off Hana’s face as if she has reached some kind of resolution herself leaving behind the chateau. The biplane is seen fading into the sands at the ‘same time’ we witness the patient’s life disappearing and fading.
At least two other times in this sequence the camera is left behind as characters ride away into the distance giving the viewer a definite feeling of leaving and completion. The camera follows Hana’s journey into the sunlight briefly to show the new beginning for her. What the camera shows on screen has also been written and directed in n effective way. We are shown certain images that remind us of other things. For example Ralph Fiennes brings out his dead lover from the caves wrapped in a white parachute.
The bright white contrasts with the orange shades of the desert and it would be easy to mistake the parachute for a wedding dress. This image is very ironic because we know that instead of a bright new future together this couple were tragically separated. The camera shows the patient looking old and withered on the bed. He shows no emotions and is made to look like a corpse. This ties in with the story. The lighting has already given us he feeling that the patient is living from the past and his current life is meaningless to him.
His soul has died long ago and now he is waiting for his body to give up, this is why he looks so much like a corpse. Towards the end of the sequence once the patient has died, the camera focuses upon the closed book. This has been done to signal the ending of the plot. This supports the sense of finishing we have noticed from the editing and use of camera. Truly a memorable film, “The English Patient”‘s final scenes leave the audience in awe by combining many wonderfully directed film elements to express the meanings and themes.
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