Hana in The English Patient and Bleeding Heart

 

Hana in “The English Patient” and Bleeding Heart
An Archetypal Character Study by Christine Giguere

Editor's note: Archetypes are universal forces originating at the highest levels of creation to shape the physical world of Nature as well as the human soul. Larger than a single “thing,” they are the prototypes or patterns that emanate from the spiritual world and are revealed in symbols, images, gestures, energetic patterns and qualities in both nature and human culture. The ability to become articulate in this language is a fundamental practitioner skill in flower essence therapy. Following is an archetypal character study written by Christine Giguere as part of her requirements for the FES Certification Program.

Hana (Juliette Binoche) is a young French-Canadian nurse working in a field hospital in Italy at the end of World War II. A severely burnt patient comes into her care who doesn’t remember his name. He is simply called “the English Patient” because of his accent.

At the beginning of the movie, Hana is faced with two devastating events. First, she learns about the death of her fiancé through a dying soldier who was enrolled in the same company. The second event happens when their contingent needs to move all the patients from the field hospital. During the slow travel, one of the nurses and very good friend of Hana, driving ahead in a jeep, runs over a land mine and is instantly killed. We see Hana in shock and acting incoherently, being oblivious to the danger of landmines. She says “I must be a curse. Anybody who knows me… Anybody who loves me… I must be a curse.”

After that last event, she decides to stay in an abandoned and partly destroyed monastery with the English patient who is suffering terribly from the bumpy road traveling. She wants to ease his last days so she takes it upon herself to stay and care for him alone. The rest of the troops are continuing further north. She says to her superior that she will catch up when he dies. We can understand her decision as a way to get away from the military and the constant danger. It’s also a giving away of herself that makes her forget about her own wounds.

Taking care of this patient sets the routine with washing his wounds, injecting him with morphine, and preparing food from the little supply they have. She reads to him out of his book Herodotus, his only belonging rescued from the plane crash and also containing personal letters. Soon a man, Caravaggio, appears at the gate, asking to stay with them for a while. This new person is disturbing the English patient at first. Caravaggio seems to know him and he will spend time with him, asking questions about his past. Shreds of memories are coming back to the English patient. He is slowly piecing everything together. He remembers being part of an archeological expedition in Egypt before the war. We see how he developed an intense love affair with an English woman who came with her husband to help with the expedition.

Hana is becoming more and more attached to her patient. Caravaggio is warning her: “You’re in love with him, your poor patient. You think he’s a saint… Ask him who he’s killed…” This is a difficult situation to face for Hana. She prefers not knowing about this kind of reality.

Come one day where Hana plays on an old broken down piano. Kip, a Sikh sapper in the British Army hears the music from afar and runs to the monastery to stop her. He’s warning her that Germans have put bombs in musical instruments. After that, he and his partner will set up their tent on the monastery’s ground. Hana is attracted by Kip and they will develop a love relationship. After their first night together, he is called to defuse a bomb. Hana in panic, fearing to see him die, is facing the possibility that she’s truly a curse. Kip doesn’t die but his partner does later that day. This leaves Kip in the throes of deep grief. Hana has soothing words for him, simply saying “you loved him.”

The English patient can eventually reveal his entire story to Caravaggio and Hana could follow their conversations. Caravaggio was there to seek revenge for the loss of his thumbs under interrogation from the Germans. We find out that in the war-torn zone of northern Africa, the English patient could not rescue his lover and she was left to die alone in a desert cave. Eventually, he sold maps to the Germans in exchange of a plane to go get her body. The plane was shot on his way back. Those maps sold to the Germans led them to incarcerate Caravaggio. “I’m already dead”, he says to Caravaggio, who finally decides not to kill him.

Hana has learned from Bleeding Heart archetype. We see her at first reacting with grief to the loss of her fiancé and of her nurse friend. She then devotes herself to the care of the English patient, as if wanting to forget about her grief through the constant giving of herself. As we can read in the Flower Essence Repertory (Kaminski and Katz, 2004), the person needing Bleeding Heart suffers enormous pain and broken heartedness because her feelings have been poured out so completely into another soul who is no longer present. Hana’s suppressed grief is showing her habitual soul gesture of pouring herself into another and she is setting herself up to live through another broken heart relationship. A similar situation happens with Kip who defuses bombs. His life is constantly at risk and Hana gets attached to him. During World War II, one had to constantly be living with the reality of death and of losing family members or friends as part of a gruesome reality. But it seems that Hana gets attached to two persons who are already experiencing their life as an even closer encounter with death.

This leads us to the last part of the movie. The English patient is ready to die. With gestures and with deeply intense eyes, he’s asking Hana to inject him with a lethal dose of morphine. Hana is crying, yet she can find the strength to do what he’s asking of her. He will pass while she’s reading the last journal entries that his lover has written while awaiting for him, and then realizing that she was waiting for her own death in the desert cave.

Then Kip is ready to leave as well. She could set him free, not holding onto his love. They exchange words of hope. We witness Kip’s eyes and demeanour changing from feeling heavy with the perspective of hurting her, to feeling hopeful. When Hana’s turn comes to leave the monastery, her gaze is also hopeful. She has gained the wisdom of not holding onto passed relationships and of being able to move on with her life. Her loving heart qualities have been ennobled.

I have the impression that Hana went through an emotional catharsis from the moment when the English patient asked her to help him pass. She had to regain her calm after considering the shocking reality and crying about it. She injected him with morphine, and then calmly read to him from his book, staying with him all along till he passed. Reading the last journal entries of the English patient’s lover, written at the moment where she was herself coming to grip with dying in a desert cave, in the dark and alone, might have served as catalyst. It’s as if she could come to peace with the reality of passing from life to death. This moment seems to have opened her up to the positive quality of Bleeding Heart with gaining more emotional freedom and with being able to experience her relationships from a larger perspective (Kaminski and Katz, 2004), from the perspective of the reality of life and death.

The end of the movie is not sad. It’s rather hopeful, as if Hana had developed a new faith in life. With Bleeding Heart, the soul learns to fill itself from within with strong spiritual forces (Kaminski and Katz, 2004) and Hana has received that lesson in this Italian monastery.

About Christine Giguere

Christine is a classical homeopath and has practiced in Calgary since 2005. She started studying flower essences in the early 2000s and the love for this therapy came when she started reading and looking into the Flower Essence Repertory in 2006. The words of flowers filled her soul. She found a therapy that could encompass the human being as a body-soul-spirit entity in constant evolution as well as in interaction within a community. It offered a way to efficiently help people move through the many changes in their lives, or help them make the necessary changes.  Christine has used flower essences extensively in her practice, especially with women and children. Christine has made a big change in her life recently, moving to Quebec City in summer 2018. Before she left, she made sure to spread the love of flower essences to colleagues and friends so they could continue this work in Calgary in their own way. She is now in the process of recreating her practice as homeopath and flower essence therapist in a different language and social context, with different soul needs.

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