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Circa 1920, during the Indian British rule, Dr. Aziz H. Ahmed was born and brought up in India. He is proficient in English, and wears Western style clothing. He meets an old lady, Mrs. Moore, at a mosque, who asks him to accompany her and her companion, Adela Quested, for sight-seeing around some caves. Thereafter the organized life of Aziz is turned upside down when Adela accuses him of molesting her in a cave. Aziz is arrested and brought before the courts, where he learns that the entire British administration is against him, and would like to see him found guilty and punished severely, to teach all native Indians what it means to molest a British citizen. Aziz is all set to witness the "fairness" of the British system, whose unofficial motto is "guilty until proved innocent." Written by
A dream. A nightmare. A new world. A battle with one's demons. A work of art!
Steven Spielberg claimed his greatest inspiration in becoming a director was Sir David Lean. In motivating him in making a film, a Lean epic would lift his spirits and inspire ideas. Evidence of his marks of appreciations are in famous Indiana Jones shots, an eye for breathtaking vistas - Empire Of The Sun being most evident (which was originally a David Lean project). The legendary British director, who's larger than life approach to film exhilarated audiences around the globe with immortal classics as 'The Bridge On The River Kwai', 'Lawrence Of Arabia' and 'Doctor Zhivago', made an unexpected return in 1984, 22 years following the last epic with one of the most mythically dream like productions ever to grace the silver screen. He took us on a journey to picturesque India with his trademark scope in crisp cinematography which filled our lungs with the most breathtaking scenery. The new generation must rediscover the works of this great human being who bestowed upon us some of the most memorable, fantastic, larger than life epic experiences that have inspired countless directors in their work. 'A Passage To India' is no exception. It is a heart-wrenching, nightmarishly beautiful film, at the same time so dream like, it transports you to another world that penetrates through the spirit of self discovery.
Reminiscent of a famous Australian film "Picnic At Hanging Rock" containing similar themes, a masterpiece directed by the poetic film maker Peter Weir, this powerful entry is one of the most memorable films of the 1980's.
The film follows the intersection of two unlikely people, English lady Ms. Adela Quested (Judy Davis) and an Indian man Dr. Aziz (Victor Banerjee) during India's British rule in the roaring twenties. It is Adela's first time out of England as she is on her way to visit India to meet her fiancé who's a judge in colonial British territory. Accompanying her is her friend and future mother in law Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft) who shares common interests with Adela in wanting to see real India - in experiencing the countryside and meeting real Indians. To their astonishment however, they soon realize that the occupying English populace aren't as enthusiastic about the idea of making close contact with these everyday Indians, believing India is best experienced at a distance. But to Adela's hesitation to her surroundings, she insists on organizing an expedition for sight-seeing. Her new found friend and school teacher Richard Fielding (James Fox) assembles a group of well-read, knowledgeable Indians to guide them throughout the expedition, composing Professor Godbole (Alec Guiness) and Dr. Aziz (who by chance acquainted himself with Mrs. Moore the previous night). It isn't long before Adela and Aziz begin to explore interests in one another, but in an untouched natural overwhelming utopia that is India, what happens to Adela in a mystical cave far from home ends as a controversy that threatens to tear Indian/British relations into chaos.
The film explores the themes of repression, illusion, racism, tolerance, forgiveness, self-discovery and justice all piled up into an unforgettable symbolically and visually breathtaking masterpiece.
What we have here is one of the most emotionally engaging character studies in film history. The film's setting is genius in portraying self discovery in an unfamiliar place far from home. Like in 'Picnic At Hanging Rock', there is strong emphasis on repression and loss of place and time, creating a most delusional reality. Most importantly, it points out the political oppression to perfection, clearly showing English attitudes toward the very people they invaded. Human nature is the film's primary focus. Adele Quested and Dr. Aziz both learn important lessons the hard way, but never-the-less become stronger human beings.
This almost mythical film absolutely drew me into this world David Lean so brilliantly brought to the screen. One of the films greatest highlights was the moving, magical, subtle and haunting score composed by legendary Maurice Jarre. It influenced the film's atmosphere so vividly, it fascinates every time I hear it. The cinematography came as no surprise to me and this is David Lean at his indisputable best. I was left grasping for air following the film's poignant conclusion. You feel almost like you're there every time. He is the master at creating an unforgettable atmosphere on an epic scale. This film was literally like a Passage To India.
The cast was expertly selected. Judy Davis is perhaps one the greatest actresses that ever walked into a film set. Her commanding physical presence extracts such unforgettable performances, it leaves people in awe of her talent. Her portrayal of Adela is extremely realistic and you feel her emotions with such power. James Fox turns in a very convincing performance as the man who stands for justice, for those who can't gain it. Alec Guiness is arguably out of place as an Indian scholar, but I believe he brought a nice touch to the film - he is one of the greatest actors in the world. Besides, his role wasn't big enough to criticize. Peggy Ashcroft gave in a marvelous performance of a woman who sees the injustices only too well and can't stand the fact that little is being done to compromise.
Everything about this film suggests it is the makings of a true artist. And everything about this film suggests that David Lean was a perfectionist who never lost his touch. It is easily one of the most beautiful, haunting, mystical and awe inspiring films ever made. I recommend it to anybody who loves film and better yet, to whoever hasn't seen a David Lean film before. This is the perfect place to start.
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