Anthony Minghella: The English Director

Article excerpt

A woman ends her affair with her husband's colleague. As she walks away after breaking the news, her now ex-lover calls after her: "I'm not missing you yet." She pauses and glances back. "You will," she assures him. "You will." She turns to continue her exit, and walks slap-bang into a scaffolding pole. The jilted man starts to offer assistance. There's no need. The woman leaves.

For me, this odd, piercing scene from the 1996 film The English Patient distils the best qualities of the writer-director Anthony Minghella, who died on 18 March, aged 54. In each of his six features for cinema, Minghella fastidiously nurtured moments of intimacy that another director might have left on the cutting-room floor, or not shot at all.

"I've always been intrigued by the 'romantic' tag that gets attached to my work," he once told me. "I don't think I'm romantic. There are love stories in my films, but they're always treated with a certain amount of ..." He stopped short of "contempt". "It's just about reminding myself that there is no free time. Nothing is allowed to exist without the context of a larger rift. In The English Patient, it's the fact that someone is suffering while there's joy. In Cold Mountain, it's the war. I feel myself not allowing characters or film to luxuriate in any moment."

I first met Minghella five years ago when he graciously agreed to introduce a screening of Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven at my book launch at London's Everyman Cinema (a favourite haunt of his). …