When I mentioned to a friend that I had seen The English Patient, he said: “That’s just romantic tosh, isn’t it?” I was shocked. Is that because I am a romantic? It led me to think, first about that film, and then about others.
I was touched by the love story, and could feel with the Hungarian lover. Indeed, his reactions to events I found quite believable and understandable. What happened to the lovers, the cave of the swimmers, and his desperate attempt to return to his love- all that was gripping. The other stuff about the war, the politically correct romance of a nurse with a Sikh, I found neither believable nor interesting. Then I was told that the book was better than the film. Well, that is usually the case, but in this instance I did not find it to be so. The central love affair really comes alive in the film, whereas in the book it is almost drowned in extraneous material.
Conclusion: The English Patient (1996, dir Anthony Minghella) is not a great film, though I still retain a vivid memory of Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott in the crucial roles. Which, then, are the best romantic films? Are there any great ones? Can there be a “great romantic film”, or indeed a “great romantic” anything? Or is romance an illusion, fuelled by sex energy, Nature’s device to ensure the reproduction of the species? I hope readers will share their views on this.
Meanwhile…. one person’s subjective list of great (?) romantic films:
Queen Christina (1933, dir. Rouben Mamoulian) -Garbo at her most sublime.
Les Enfants du Paradis (1945, dir Marcel Carné) – long, enthralling, wonderfully rich, with all the parts superbly acted- Jean-Louis Barrault, Arletty, Pierre Brasseur…
Casablanca (1942, dir. Michael Curtiz) with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains…
Gone with the Wind (1939, dir. Robert Fleming) with Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland.
Seeing Gone with the Wind again a few years ago, I was, in truth, very disappointed. Scarlett, in the book, has such a wonderful thirst for life, resilience and courage, that one can accept her selfishness. In the film, Vivien Leigh (luminously beautiful in Waterloo Bridge ) is merely petulantly foul and selfish, and looks it; Howard is boringly insipid and de Havilland… wet. That leaves Clark Gable and, despite all the advances in special effects techniques since then, striking images of war. It almost deserves to be regarded as a war film.
Is Les Enfants du Paradis not the ultimate romantic love story? “There is not a single day I do not think of her”… can one believe that? But- he believed it!!!
Or is it Casablanca ? The dialogue is wonderful, the acting also except for Paul Henreid’s wooden unbelievably “noble” resistance fighter, and Bogart’s recollection of waiting, tense, nervous, expectant, for his beloved …. who does not come…. and sends no word…. the most harrowing romantic experience. But his indulgent self-pity… Oh dear!
Let us have your views: Can there be such a thing as a GREAT romantic film… or novel…or drama? And which have moved you most?
I’ve watched The English Patient twice. The first time was just after it had been released and there was a lot of hyperbole about the film. I didn’t think the it lived up to the published reviews. Several years later, I saw it again on television and I found the central love story quite moving.
Other favourite romantic films include:-
A Matter of Life and Death – a film I intend to review.
Cyrano De Bergerac – the French version with Gerard Depardieu which did not contain the usual Hollywood happy ending but a deeply moving denouement of unrequited love.
See also More Great Romantic Films