A Passage to India


Action / Adventure / Drama / History


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April 15, 2016 at 11:18 PM



Alec Guinness as Godbole
Judy Davis as Adela
James Fox as Fielding
Saeed Jaffrey as Hamidullah
720p 1080p
1.15 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 44 min
P/S 4 / 6
2.47 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 44 min
P/S 5 / 12

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by jrcadams 10 / 10

Lean's silent scene suggests reason for court case.

Films based on novels (as in this case) must rely on screenplays which condense the material, and supply either voice-overs, or visuals to explain what is going on in a character's head. Usually, a voice-over is a cop-out. David Lean has provided a brilliant substitute for a voice-over in the scene where Adela wanders on her bicycle into the bush to discover a Hindu temple. A central mystery in the book as well as in the film is the ambiguity of the cause for the court case. Forster said that judgment was up to the reader. Lean was a reader, and in my view, he made his decision, and provided us with a clue in that scene (which is not in the book). Here is that scene: Adela leaves the safe British compound on an exploratory trip with a bicycle. She leaves the highway, and cycles down a path through the weeds. The sign- post, which had appeared quite natural when she looked at it, now looks like a Christian Cross when she leaves the road and goes down the path. The music changes from a major key to the minor, suggesting mystery, or menace. She is leaving her familiar culture and riding into the unknown. She sees a fallen sculpture. A voluptuous sculpture. She doesn't turn back. As she rides farther, the weeds grow higher. She is being engulfed by India. She dismounts as she approaches a copse, and walks into the shadows. She sees a ruined Hindu temple covered with erotic sculptures. Amourous couples are coupling. She stares at these apparitions, so abandoned, and so alien to her proper Victorian up-bringing. She is attracted by the spectacle, but she is frightened by her attraction. Suddenly she hears a noise, and looks up to see a troop of monkeys. They chatter menacingly at her and begin to scamper down the temple, over the erotic sculpture, and in panic she flees. Could the monkeys symbolize that emotional, sensual, animal nature that lives in everyone but is supposed to be suppressed in Englishwomen (and American ones, for that matter!)? Are they saying, "This is our land, the land of emotion; you do not belong here"? India attracts her. It awakens hidden desires. It menaces her. She flees to the familiar, visibly shaken. Back at the bungalow, with her fiancé, she says "I want to take back what I said at the polo," which was that she wanted to delay the wedding. She was so frightened by the feelings rising in her as she tasted a bit of Indian culture that she wanted to put a stop to passion by marrying! And all of that was said in the film without words. It provides us with a rationale for believing she later suffered an hallucination, which is at the core of the plot.

Reviewed by Spleen 10 / 10

Treads the borderline of historical fiction and fantasy with breathtaking skill

Never mind whether or not it's as good as "The Bridge on the River Kwai", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Doctor Zhivago", et al.; the point is, it's a great film that was clearly made by the same David Lean that made the earlier masterpieces.

The stuff that usually gets dismissed with a wave of the hand - the art direction, the music (Maurice Jarre reserved his best scores for David Lean, although there's less music here than there usually is), the photography, the editing, the indefinable assuredness of narrative flow - everything that makes up the heart and soul of cinema, in fact - is as marvellous as ever. It's amazing enough when you consider that this was Lean's first film in fourteen years. More astonishing is that it was the first film on which he's credited as editor in forty-two years. Forty-two years earlier, he was working for Michael Powell (the only other British director as good as Lean), who considered him the best editor in the world; and while Lean's wielding the scissors again after all that time may have made very little difference to his overall style, I still think there's something special - even more special than usual - about the way "A Passage to India" flows. Maybe it's that Lean adapted the screenplay, then shot it, then cut it himself, but he has such an strong feel for the pulse of the story, such an unerring feel for what follows from what, that even the several jump cuts - jump cuts are usually the most ugly, the most offensively flashy, and the most intrusive of all cinematic devices - are beautiful, natural, even classical. In a way you don't notice that they're there.

I've never heard it said that two-time collaborators Powell and Lean have much in common - and they don't. But of all David Lean's creations this one comes closest to being like a Powell and Pressburger picture. There's an element of mysticism (threatening as well as comforting) darting in and out of the story with such fleetness and subtlety that it's hard to tell when it's there and when it's not; and, of course, the incident at the caves (explained exactly as much as it needs to be, and no more) could as easily have come from one of Pressburger's scripts as from Forster's novel. If you've seen "Black Narcissus", admittedly a very different kind of film, you don't need me to draw attention to the points of similarity.

Lean's imagery may be less openly bizarre than Powell's but the effect can be much the same. "A Passage to India", although it lacks the beauty of the films of the three Lean films shot by Freddie Young, contains Lean's most disturbingly powerful shots, yet they're of such things as these: monkeys (echoed later on in the film by a startling shot of a man dressed like a monkey - actually, that IS the kind of thing I can see Powell doing), someone clutching her hand to her chest, the moon, the first raindrops of a storm hitting a dirty window pane, even water - simple cutaway shots of nothing but moonlit water.

I haven't read the book, but I do know that if you HAVE to have read the book to see what's wrong with the film, why, then, there's nothing wrong with it. I don't know how much of the book has been lost in the translation but I do know that if too much has been lost to make a rich and powerful film, then whatever has been lost has been more than adequately replaced.

Reviewed by Alec West 10 / 10

Culture and race and one thing you might not notice.

Sometimes, what you don't see can be of equal importance to what you do see in a film. David Lean's film is no exception ... but more on that later.

A film of epic quality, it follows two travelers on their journey from England to India during the Raj colonial period of the 1920s. For Adela Quested, it's her first time out of England to anywhere. For Mrs. Moore, it's a chance to visit her son, Ronny, who is expected to marry Adela during the visit. But, their visit is not without incident.

What both Adela and Mrs. Moore discover is an India ruled by British bureaucrats (Ronny being one of them, a city magistrate) who exude personal and cultural superiority over Indians. This was a shock to them since they both expected to find Indians and Britons meeting socially and on friendly terms. The only exception to that rule appears to be Fielding, principal of a college.

Through Fielding, Adela is introduced socially to Professor Godbole (a Hindu holy man) and Dr. Aziz (a Muslim physician). Mrs. Moore met Aziz in a previous scene but had not yet met Godbole until that moment. One note on that (a film flaw). During the mosque scene where Mrs. Moore meets Dr. Aziz, Aziz never once mentions his name to her ... yet later, Adela knows his name as mentioned to her by Mrs. Moore. Perhaps his name was mentioned in a brief scene that ended up on the cutting-room floor. But, that omission is trivial and in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the film.

During this social introduction, Aziz invites Mrs. Moore and Adela on a journey to the Marabar caves, a tourist destination. On the trip, and tired from all the activity, Mrs. Moore stays at the encampment near the lower caves and encourages Aziz and Adela to explore the higher caves alone.

Then, something happened ... and I won't tell you what (grin). Suffice it to say that Aziz finds himself in police custody. A court trial ensues that pits culture against culture, race against race, and clearly demonstrates the differences in attitudes between resident British citizens and Indians. But the trial's climax isn't the most moving part of the film. Lean has risen the film's denouement to a higher level ... one that leaves you smiling and crying at the same time. But what Lean does NOT mention in the film is equally interesting.

In today's world, India is beset by inter-sect angst between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and persons of other faiths. In theory, this inter-sect rivalry has been around since before India became a British colony. But, this rivalry was not mentioned once in the film. It is perhaps a testament to the novelist (E.M. Forster) and Lean to realize a potent underlying force in the story ... that British colonial rule held these rivalries in abeyance ... uniting Indians of all faiths into a common bond that eventually forced colonialism to end in India.

The film is a masterpiece on every level and remains one of my favorites of all time.

P.S. Closing comment to those (like me) who own region-free DVD players that render both PAL and NTSC DVDs. For some reason unknown to me, it's over $10 cheaper to buy the DVD from Amazon.co.uk than it is from Amazon.com ... even after overseas shipping is added in. That's where I ordered mine (from the UK).

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