Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of The English Patient, died today at age 54 of complications from surgery to treat tonsil cancer. Minghella’s singular vision brought a touch of elegance to the Academy Award-winning film. Two of his later films, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain, suffered from an English Patient backlash, but they are every bit as beautiful as, and even more engaging than, the earlier film.
Minghella’s films are best seen on the big screen and one image stands out from three wildly different sources in the director’s canon. The first can be found in the duel scene of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin featured in Ripley. As Onegin kills Lensky, a bright red fabric spreads out onstage as Lensky’s blood is spilled. Again in Cold Mountain, Minghella uses the same image as Inman’s (Jude Law) blood spreads in the snow. In the fall of 2006, in his spectacularly beautiful production of Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera, Minghella once more uses the red fabric to convey Cio-Cio-San’s suicide at the end of the opera.
It is a particularly disheartening that we won’t have the opportunity to see what would have come from Minghella’s operatic partnership with composer Osvaldo Golijov. However, Minghella leaves behind three films in particular that showcase his particular talents, and for that we can be thankful.