Post-Nationalism and the Cinematic Apparatus in Minghella's Adaptation of Ondaatje's The English Patient

Hsuan Hsu, Visiting Scholar, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Post Colonial Literature in English: Canada

This abstract from the CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture appears with the kind permission of Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. Copyright remains of course with the author and CLCWeb

Hsuan Hsu discusses Anthony Minghella's cinematic version of Ondaatje's novel. In Hsu's view, Minghella and Ondaatje (Ondaatje collaborated on the film script) emphasize in the film the visual and social implications of mapmaking in order to align imperialism with the cinematic apparatus. While the film explores the workings of visual power, it also explores their adulteration by unmapped forces of desire: Almásy's and Katherine's adulterous relationship transgresses marital and national constraints, but also reinscribes them when Almásy desires to possess her body and Katherine dies immobilized looking at illuminated pictures in a cave. However, the film's narrative frame presents a more promising version of apparatus theory: Hana's relationship with Kip involves both a transnational way of loving and an "adulterated" way of seeing. Whereas nationalist ideology links knowledge to the notion of a disembodied and objective gaze, both the film's eroticism and its melodramatic evocation of tears remind us that vision is fundamentally embodied.

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Postcolonial Web India OV Canada Michael Ondaatje

Last modified: 12 August 2004