Postmodernism is one of the most controversial and influential intellectual movements to appear in the last fifty years. In order to understand postmodernism, it would be wise to begin with a definition of modernism. Modernism is a philosophy based on the belief that through Enlightenment values of rationality and the absolute truth of science, the human race will evolve into a utopia. Modernists are Eurocentric, humanistic, and optimistic. Postmodernism is essentially a rejection of modernism and all Enlightenment values. More importantly, postmodernism looks upon the "modern" world with increased cynicism and disappointment. Key themes in postmodern thought include irony, arbitrary actions, intertexture, surface and superficiality, self-consciousness, skepticism, multiple perspectives, and relativism. In Anthony Minghella's film The English Patient, postmodernism is addressed using all of these themes in interrelated situations.
The film uses irony as a primary mode of expression, subverting conventions and negotiating contradictions. The ultimate use of irony is an expression is love. Almasy writes in the book of Herodotus that the heart is an "organ of fire," meaning it is consuming both of oneself and the past (Minghella, English). Later Hana reads the passage and agrees with his observation. She, too, has experienced such feelings having lost many who are dear to her during the war. While in the desert, Almasy questions Geoffrey's decision to leave Katharine with the group, citing the possible dangers involved for a woman (Minghella, English). Ironically, Geoffrey asks Almasy why he is so threatened by a woman, when truthfully he is af...
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... English Patient is a scrapbook of another world of romance, tragedy, and adventure all jumbled out of sequence. With this film, Anthony Minghella has crafted a film that is lyrical and complex-emotionally, morally-full of enduring images: a vivid yellow biplane against a blue sky, wrinkled dunes from the air melting into the crumpled sheet of a deathbed or sheets rumpled by lovemaking, a mountain described as "shaped like a woman's back' later echoed in Katharine's silhouette as she lies in bed (Minghella, English). At the end, The English Patient comes full circle, back to where it started, like the memories that torment Almasy, with the shadows of the plane flying over the desert, shot down by the Germans.
The English Patient. Dir. Anthony Minghella. Wri. Michael Ondaatje. Burbank: Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 1996.
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