Despite his prestigious career, I know Ralph Fiennes mostly as Lord Voldemort. And let’s be real: He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named isn’t the sexiest romantic lead. This movie is strangely prescient, given that Ralph spends half the film in prosthetics that are not totally dissimilar from the Voldemort snake-face. That says something about him as an actor, or maybe about me as a viewer.
But where are the ladies? you might be asking. Yes, my month of ladies is winding up. But why am I having more difficulty finding solid women leads as I get closer to the present?
In fairness, I do like both of the women characters in this film: Hana, the war nurse who isn’t very busy tending to a single mysterious patient (that’s Ralphy, post-burnt-to-a-crisp-conveniently-amnesiac); and Katharine, wife of an archaeologist on expedition around Cairo just before World War II breaks out. The fact that the film fails the test because the two main ladies exist in two separate time frames and so never have a chance to talk to each other shouldn’t discount that they’re interesting people. Also the fact that their primary existence is as a love interest for a male character. And the fact that we see naked breasts all over, but somehow the idea of bare man-parts is apparently scandalous.
Instead of the main love story, I actually found more intriguing the burgeoning romance between Hana and Kip, the Sikh minesweeper who camps outside the monastery Hana’s tucked away in. It wasn’t a romance fraught with drama and jealousy and adultery, which is probably why it didn’t get as much screen time. There’s a touching moment, after they part, Kip off to defuse a bomb while Hana realizes the horror of caring about another person she’s doomed to lose.
As I’ve probably said here before, I’m a bit of a sucker for a good framing device, and this one worked pretty well – working through the puzzle through snippets of the mysterious unnamed (until he is) man. Overall, I enjoyed the mystery of this film, in figuring out how it all came to a papery-faced man who had given up all hope in life. Maybe not so different from ol’ Voldy, after all.
Theme: Ladies on Film
Bechdel Test: Nope, unless you count that nurse in the beginning who borrows money from Hana right before her jeep blows up.
First Time Watching? Yes
Final Verdict: Too many men, just like this house.