Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anthony Minghella: 1954 - 2008

Less than two months after the death of Heath Ledger, the world of film has been hit by another sudden blow with the passing of Anthony Minghella at the premature age of 54. Minghella died from a brain haemorrhage today after a routine operation to remove a growth from his neck – a horribly arbitrary death that again underlines just how tenuous our grip on life is. After learning his trade as a TV writer, Minghella moved into cinema with
Truly, Madly, Deeply and Mr Wonderful; two romantic pictures that couldn't prepare us for the sweep of his later works. He will long be remembered for the Oscar-laden epic The English Patient, but I prefer his sleek, Hitchcockian thriller The Talented Mr Ripley; a beautifully crafted and wickedly entertaining adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel.

Minghella couldn't repeat the success of those two films with
Cold Mountain or Breaking and Entering, but both of those pictures were visually stunning – as his work so often was – and each offered at least a handful of memorable moments. For all of his gifts, I was never a huge fan of Minghella as a director, but whenever I saw him interviewed or making a public appearance (as he often did in his capacity as chairman of the British Film Institute), I was always impressed with him as a man. Just last week he was appearing on television to discuss his latest project, an adaptation of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency – something he described as "A labour of love, and a lovely labour" – and once again he came across as an intelligent, articulate, passionate and humble figure. His untimely death is unquestionably a great loss for cinema.