Script To Screen: “The English Patient”

A moment of obsessed love explored in this scene from the 1996 movie The English Patient, screenplay by Anthony Minghella, novel by Michael Ondaatje.

IMDb plot summary: At the close of WWII, a young nurse tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim. His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair.

Here Almásy (Ralph Fiennes) spies on his lover Katherine (Kristin Scott Thomas) dancing.

EXT.    AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE.    NIGHT.
Later, now MOST OF THE GROUP ARE DANCING.  We see Katharine dancing 
with Rupert Douglas, enjoying herself. Bermann is there and even Madox jogging and grinning foolishly. Clifton looks at Katharine who, as the dance ends, excuses herself to go to the cloakroom. Almásy hovers in the shadows, unseen.
INT.    AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE.    NIGHT.
Katharine comes along the familiar warren of rooms and corridors and is suddenly confronted by Almásy, tortured and out of control.
			ALMÁSY
Why did you hold his collar?
			KATHARINE
What?
			ALMÁSY
(mimicking her inflection)
What? What? That boy, that little boy,
you were holding his collar, gripping
his collar, what for?
			KATHARINE
Would you let me pass?
			ALMÁSY
Is he next? Do you drag him into your
little room? Where is it? Is this it?
			KATHARINE
Don't do this.
			ALMÁSY
I've watched you - on verandahs, at
Garden Parties, at the Races - how
can you stand there? How can you
ever smile? As if your life hadn't capsized?
			KATHARINE
You know why?
He tries to hold her.  She resists
			ALMÁSY
Dance with me.
			KATHARINE
No.
			ALMÁSY
Dance with me. I want to touch you.
I want the things which are mine.
Which belong to me.
			KATHARINE
Do you think you're the only one who
feels anything? Is that what you think?
Some women, flushed with dancing, turn the corner on the way to the 
Ladies Room. They collect Katharine in their train and leave Almásy to fall back into the shadows.

Here is the scene in the movie:

The dialogue in the movie is almost word for word as in the script. And why not? As delivered by Fiennes, the dialogue explodes with latent emotion. Dance with me. I want to touch you. I want the things which are mine. Which belong to me. Simple. Short. Indeed every word is one syllable. That reinforces the base quality of his character’s obsession with Katherine.

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

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