The English Patient

Count Lazlo Almasy, the English Patient, is a man in an Imperial time and world. The people in this world live by Imperial rules and perpetuate Imperial stereotypes. The film takes place in World War II era Africa, and as the film portrays it, in the mysterious and exotic Sahara desert and in Cairo, Egypt. Count Almasy’s character lives in the desert among imperial explorers and in the desert environment full of natives who bring to life classic stereotypes full of ignorance and white prevalence and power. Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, authors of Unthinking Eurocentrism, believe that the Imperial attitudes that the British government and the Western imperial society initiated, continue today and are alive in the cinema. The film, “The English Patient” is a key example of Imperial influence on cinema with the exception of one character: Count Almasy. On the surface, Almasy seems to be just like those around him, but when one looks deeper, his characteristics show that he is in fact an anti-imperial. Almasy’s character invites the viewer to identify with his seeming quest for adventure and then reveals qualities that then revise the colonial stereotypes that he seemed to personify previously.

In the chapter “Imperial Imaginary” by Shohat and Stam, the authors discuss the idea that the perfect imperial subject is the adolescent male because of his vulnerability and hunger for adventure (101). The nature of imperialism is one of power and control. To teach a man to be an imperial one must teach him to love adventure. According to the authors, the empire by its very nature is the man’s plaything and that “boys [can] play in the space of an empire” (101). It gives them the freedom and creativity to explore and through cinema...

... middle of paper ..., unpredictable weather, and the general exoticism of the Sahara, Almasy is the odd light in the dark of the “Imperial Imaginary”. According to Stam and Shohat’s definition of the imperial, Almasy fits into their

image only on the surface. He believes in many things that are antithetical to that of the imperial,largely his feelings about borders, names, and maps. When one delves deeper into his personality and beliefs, it can be seen that he is in fact the anti-imperial amidst a plethora of imperial stereotypes.

Works Cited

Ondaatje, Michael. The English Patient. New York: Random House, Inc., 1992.

Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and theMedia. New York: Routledge, 1994.

”The English Patient”. Dir. Anthony Minghella. Perf. Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Defoe, and Kristin Scott Thomas. Miramax, 1996.
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