My current Top 5

My current Top 5

1/10/2010

Best Actress 1996: Kristin Scott Thomas in "The English Patient"

Before the Academy Awards in 1997, there was a lot of speculation about the category placement for Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas who both played the main female characters in The English Patient. It’s a movie which combines flashbacks with present-day scenes and while Kristin Scott Thomas is only present in the flashbacks, Juliette Binoche only appears in the present-day scenes.

The English Patient tells the story of a man who was almost burned to death in a plane crash during World War II and is now taken care of by a Canadian nurse in an abandoned monastery in the Italian countryside. Through flashbacks we learn his story – a story about love and betrayal.

In the end, it was decided to push Kristin Scott Thomas for lead because the love story between Katharine and Almásy is the heart and soul of the picture. While the placement is still debateable, I have no problems with it.

We actually see Katharine once in the present-day scenes – right at the beginning, sitting in an airplane, apparently sleeping. She doesn’t do anything in this scene, but Kristin Scott Thomas’s unique beauty already makes an aborbing entrence.

In the role of Katharine, Kristin Scott Thomas creates one of the most fascinating cold blondes that ever graced the screen. Besides being stunningly beautiful, Kristin Scott Thomas is able to add something mysterious, inaccesible but also intimate to Katharine – she never becomes a very emotional woman but instead tries to keep her feelings behind her calm face.

Katharine is a woman alone in a world of men and accompanies her husband who works with a group of geographers in the Sahara Desert. Kristin Scott Thomas immediately demonstrates a certain British arrogance and iciness but she is able to combine it with warmth and passion which makes Katharine a very fascinating woman right from the start. She shows that Katharine is neither shy nor afraid to say what’s on her mind. Kristin Scott Thomas’s performance is very modern and old-fashioned at the same time – Katharine’s looks are wonderfully 30s but her character is not. She may be a kind of trophy wife but she refuses to be reduced in any way.

Just like Katharine always shows that there is more to her than beauty and style, Kristin Scott Thomas never lets her own beauty dominate her performance but instead shows a deep side in Katharine’s character that is sometimes rather ugly. Neither she nor Ralph Fiennes make any excuses for their passionate love affair – Katharine is always aware that she is cheating on her husband, she doesn’t fall in love with Almásy and forgets time and space. Instead, even in her most happy moments we always see her guilt and sorrow. When Almásy asks her after their first time together when she was the most happy, she answers ‘Now’. And when he asks her when she was the least happy, she again says ‘Now’. Kristin Scott Thomas is not afraid to make Katharine unlikable in her adultery.

Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas give very grown-up performances. This may sound weird, but it is meant to describe that they don’t fall romantically in love and act like teenagers but instead they always show that they are aware of what they’re doing even in their most passionate, spontaneous encounters. Ralph and Kristin demonstrate how troubled and disturbed their characters are by their love affair.

The sexual and passionate chemistry between Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas makes The English Patient one of the greatest love stories ever captured on the screen. From the first moment they meet each other it is clear that she will change his life forever.

At first, Katharine seems rather amused by Almásy's awkward and humorless behavior and tries to get him out of his shell – not in a flirting or sexual way, but rather friendly and interested. Katharine likes to tease Almásy but her loving feelings for him develop later.

The English Patient never explores the love between Almásy and Katharine – it doesn’t ask why or how and neither does Kristin Scott Thomas. Her character never explains why she is so fascinated by him but thanks to Kristin’s passionate performance, she doesn’t have to. On the other side, we also never learn about Almásy’s motives for his love, but again, Kristin turns Katharine into such a captivating character that no reasons are necessary.

It is not easy for actors to portray a love story in an epic like The English Patient. They have to show the intimacy of their relationship but also have to make their love as grand as the movie itself. Both Ralph and Kristin were wonderfully able to fulfill this task without any sentiment.

Kristin Scott Thomas may be only playing a love interest, but she never lets her character be reduced to this. She adds a lot of layers and nuances to Katharine who in the end, is not only a love interest, but becomes a symbol for the kind of woman who could make a man betray his colleagues, his friends and his country. Katharine may be nothing more than the memory of a dying man – but she becomes a lingering presence over everyone and everything.

Kristin Scott Thomas was able to bring this woman to life in the most glorious way and for this, she gets

5 comments:

Sage Slowdive said...

Wow, you really liked her! lol. I like her, can't say I'd throw her an Oscar for this, but I like it.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

YAY!!! This film and performance are favourites of mine and KST's performance holds so much more resonance for me when I remember that she was fought heavily for the part, I can't recall who [Demi Moore I believe] but other big actresses were lined up and only Minghella wanted KST. He fought for her which I think always paid off. She's perfect in this role.

Fritz said...

Well, she has an (unfair) advantage because The English Patient is one of my favorite movies, but I think that all the performances in the movie are outstanding.

joe burns said...

I couldn't see anyone else playing this part,but I don't think she was anywhere near award-caliber.

katy said...

Dame Kristin A. Scott Thomas, DBE (born 24 May 1960) is an English-French actress. She made her film debut in the Prince-directed Under the Che..... Read More