Monday, April 23, 2007

A Passage to India

A Passage to India; Drama, UK/ USA/ India, 1984; D: David Lean, S: Victor Banerjee, Judy Davis, James Fox, Peggy Ashcroft, Nigel Havers, Alec Guinness, Saeed Jaffrey

UK after World War I. The young English girl Adela Quested decided to take a trip to India to visit her fiance Ronny. She arrives in India with a ship together with Mrs Moore, Ronny's mother, but she soon discovers every English person avoids any kind of contact with the Indians and that it's colonial status is very shaky and unstable. Still, Mrs Moore makes friends with Aziz, a local doctor and a widower, and proves to be a very nice person. He invites her and Adela to a picnic at the caves of Marabar. There, because of a very hot day, Adele falls unconscious and starts getting hallucinations. In panic, she runs away and falsely accuses Aziz of raping her. He gets arrested, but proclaimed innocent at the court. As a consequence, Aziz starts hating the English and goes to work in Srinagar. There his friend Fielding visits him and informs him he got married for Stella, the daughter of Mrs Moore.

Winner of 3 Golden Globes (best supporting actress Peggy Ashcroft, music, foreign film), 2 Oscars (best supporting actress Peggy Ashcroft, music) and a BAFTA (best supporting actress Peggy Ashcroft), epic adventure "A Passage to India" is David Lean's relaxed farewell from his directorial career, since it was his last film. It's a calm, tranquil and meditative 2,5 hours drama that contains a sufficient number of virtues, but in which it's still noticeable that some parts were chopped down and reduced during editing, especially in the scenes containing Alec Guinness where it is sensed that they had more in them then it was shown in the end, and that it sometimes seems like some British TV soap opera. The exposition is especially beautiful, showing Adele in the UK looking at a model of a ship in a store, then later on pictures of India in the bureau for visas, and here and there a few nice little details can be found (for instance, when an Indian is cooking in the bathroom of the train), and all actors are good, Mrs Ashcroft being equally as good and restrained as the rest of the cast, but the story seems slightly overstretched and monotone. In the second half, in which Aziz gets accused for rape, the story gets more intriguing, as if Lean gave her a special spark, but at the same time it also becomes unbalanced. As it's often the case in his films, Lean once again gave a bitter commentary about British colonialism, snobism, arrogance and emotional longing, in which Aziz is a symbol for repressed India, but the second half doesn't naturally continue the tone set by the first one. "A Passage to India" is an interesting film that cannot quite fill its own shoes.


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