‘Truly Madly Deeply’ is loss and love

Cristina Franzi

The 1991 British film “Truly Madly Deeply” explores loss through both death and the release of the past. Written and directed by Anthony Minghella, this black comedy centers on Nina, a thirty-something Londoner played by Juliet Stevenson, who cannot get over the sudden death of her lover, Jamie. Jamie, played by Alan Rickman, comes back as a ghost in order to help Nina through this time of sorrow. (It’s a great surprise to see Rickman, whom we all know as the brooding Professor Snape from the Harry Potter films, as a romantic leading man.)

Before making this romantic movie, Minghella wrote plays for both British stage and radio, and then moved on to doing television scripts for the BBC. When the BBC asked him to write the script for “Truly Madly Deeply,” Minghella agreed, but only if he’d be allowed to direct it as well. Thus, Minghella made his feature film directorial debut with this movie. Though shot on a budget of only $650,000 over a tight 28-day schedule, “Truly” proved to be a huge hit both at home and on the American art house circuit. It also marked the auspicious start for Minghella’s role as a film director, as he would go on to win an Oscar for the 1996 film “The English Patient.”

Some of you may be thinking that you’ve seen this movie before, but do not be fooled; the title of this film is indeed, “Truly Madly Deeply,” and not “Ghost.” Though the story does sound similar to the 1990 box office hit starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, there are differences. This movie doesn’t feature the subplot revolving around murder and vengeance, the extensive special effects, or the over-the-top comedy of Whoopi Goldberg. (It does have its share of humorous moments, though.) None of this appears to have had a negative effect on the movie’s success, as it has been touted by reviewers as “the thinking person’s ‘Ghost.'”

“Truly” comes across as an extremely personal film; not surprising since many of the participants knew each other well beforehand. For example, Minghella wrote the role of Nina expressly for Stevenson, with whom he worked on nine London stage productions. Stevenson and Rickman, in turn, had costarred in several Royal Shakespeare Company plays. Mingella has said, “However jaundiced we become, we’re all basically film fans. I was a huge fan of Alan Rickman, a huge fan of Juliet Stevenson. I felt the enormous buzz of having them do my work. A lot of the time I just felt, I’m very lucky today.”

“Truly Madly Deeply” will be screened four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 for students and $4 for all others. Paul Swann, professor of Media Culture Studies and director of the M.F.A. program in Film and Media Arts program at Temple University, will be present at the Monday screening to provide a brief introduction and then lead a discussion following the viewing.