Anthony Minghella died on March 18. He was someone I admired. He was a noted filmmaker, helming such movies as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain and more significantly for me, the adaptation of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje's lyrical, complex and aching novel about love, adultery and tragedy in the Sahara.
Screenplay by Anthony Minghella, adapted from the novel by Michael Ondaatje
EXT. THE CAVE OF SWIMMERS. DAY.
He has WRAPPED KATHARINE IN THE SILK FOLDS OF HER PARACHUTE
and emerges from the near the familiar cleft in the rock,
struggling with the exertion of the climb as they approach
the Cave of Swimmers. He has a large water bottle slung
around his neck and a haversack, and is loaded like a pack
horse. Katharine opens her eyes.
Why did you hate me?
Don't you know you drove everybody
You speak so many bloody languages
and you never want to talk.
They stagger on. He suddenly notices a stain of gold at her
neck. It's saffron, leaking from a silver THIMBLE which
hangs from a black ribbon.
You're wearing the thimble.
Of course. You idiot. I always
wear it. I've always worn it. I've
always loved you.
Almásy CRIES as he walks - huge sobs, no words - convulsed
with the pain of it. They approach the Cave.
I saw the movie with my friend Elizabeth. It overwhelmed me in a way the book had not. I love that book; it touched so many chords in me; but the visual adaptation tore me to pieces, from the opening scene of Madox's plane casting its shadow across the desert floor like an aerial swimmer to the final sequence of Almasy carrying the dead Katherine out from the Cave of the Swimmers.
I was so haunted by Minghella's intense direction and saturated scenery that eight years elapsed before I was able to watch the movie in its entirety again.
When an artist's vision can hold a person in thrall for that long...well, then you can understand why I note the passing of someone I've never or was ever likely to meet.
There's always saffron on hand in the house...some of it stored in a thimble. Why, I just can't say.
Suzanne Goin's recipe for Saffron Risotto is transcendant. Email me at ablithepalate (AT) gmail (DOT) com if you would like the recipe.