I found out over the weekend that Anthony Minghella has died of surgery complications following an operation for cancer. Minghella directed many films based on great books - The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain, and one of his next projects was The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen, a book I have been meaning to read.
But it is his first film that I will remember the most. I first saw Truly, Madly, Deeply at the Auckland International Film Festival in 1990 and I have seen it countless times since - one of the few films I have ever seen that I can watch again and again. I guess that makes it my favourite film of all time. Juliet Stevenson is superb in it as Nina - a scene early on in the film sees her crying to her therapist about the death of her partner Jamie, played by Alan Rickman before Hollywood found him. She bursts into angry, shouting, snotty tears about him leaving her. She is spellbinding.
She misses him so much that he comes back to her. While she plays the piano for a Bach piece and hums the cello part that accompanies it, he reappears, playing. He hangs out with her. More tears, more snot, but also great joy and silliness of a couple just hanging out. But things start to fall apart. He is perpetually cold. He invites his dead mates over and they watch videos. Eventually Nina realises that it's not going to work and she moves on, and Jamie lets her.
The film is a real tear jerker but it's also funny and so real that you have no trouble suspending disbelief. It is so unsentimental that it's hard to believe the same director went on to direct the schmaltz of Cold Mountain. But because of Truly Madly Deeply, I would forgive Minghella anything.
Because of that film I love Juliet Stevenson, I love Alan Rickman (who else can make a moustache look so sexy?), I love Bach's Cello Sonata in G Minor and always feel this odd mix of longing and contentment when I hear it (also this great rendition of "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore"). And because of all these things, I guess you could say that I love Anthony Minghella. Wish he'd made a film of my book. He would have been perfect.