dr. Martha Fiennes
str. Ralph Fiennes, Liv Tyler and Martin Donovan

Now it's official: no-one in the past had a sense of humour. It was all earnest romantic pleas and silent suffering as the wax dripped down and formed images of future failure in piercing poetic notions. Is my prose tortured enough? Do I speak of love's wings clipped at the moment of crystalline ascendancy. Am I putting you to sleep? You see, in an effort to find a writing style to mirror this little cinematic non-effort, I've taken up to the blade of poesy. Fear me Ralph Fiennes! Play another tortured lover and you will come into painful contact with the velveteen touch of my glove. Away with you sir!

Alexander Pushkin's original poem Eugene Onegin is a million miles away from this high-flown doodling, but if you had to judge from this awful adaptation you'd assume it was nothing more than a Penguin classic meets Mills and Boon piece of trash. Its witty, precise, serenely self-knowing but also quite beautiful, one of the true icons of early literary modernity. Modern Russia found a model for its everyday language in Onegin, a rich and poetic language filled with the echoes of Byron that could still function in a colloquial, short and unfussy mode. To pay homage to this masterwork, the filmmakers have decided to make a straight down the line romantic drama with lots of chewy scenery and scenes of unfulfilled passion. The English Patient is End of The Affair is Onegin is Ralph Fiennes in a tedious cinematic loop. I've always preferred the Fiennes of Schindler's List and Quiz Show, performances of cold intelligence and vanity, but once The English Patient took off he's been getting a lot of mileage out of this brooding egotist with a one-second per millennium compassion kick. Its also good for interviewers pushing their own questions who've always thought that those lengthy and intelligent answers were just space that could've been used to more obsessive purposes. "Oooh Ralph, you are so rude." And so the interview goes, that little wet piece of prose beforehand setting the scene:

He has a cold, cerebral edge to him. He walks in politely and shakes my hand, seemingly uncomfortable with this media bandwagon (which I seem to criticise but actually need to keep the vampires from coming for me in the middle of the night). I take this stand-offishness to be genius in hiding, and immediately propose we jump ship and get to know each other better somewhere a little sleazier. Fiennes proceeds to look into my eyes in an odd way for the next seventeen minutes before asking for a glass of water.

You get the idea. You alone apparently.

I'm actually getting a little sick of these suffering souls looking for a good quiet woman in the sun or snow no-brainers. What I'd like to see is Fiennes paired with someone who has some sense of humour, a funny, unpretentious actress who could slap him round a bit. We need to take a little bit of wind out of those over-inflated sails. Enough with these bled-dry poetic trifles. It's time for something which affects the body.

Adam Rivett
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