The Dance of Shiva (1998) Poster

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Superb Short Film
Theo Robertson3 April 2004
I`ve never been a fan of short films . Never have been never will be , but the technical aspects of THE DANCE OF THE SHIVA are superb like the scene where the Indian NCO braves shell fire to save a British officer . In fact I could spend a lot of time praising the technical aspects of this short but I won`t bother , I`ll just recommend you watch this to understand why I like it . I should perhaps also mention the script by Joseph Miller contains scenes that pull the rug from under the audience like " the hospital scene in India " at the end , and praise too that Miller hasn`t painted these Hindu warriors as victims of white European imperalism either . In fact I was shocked to see that neither Miller or director Jaime Payne haven`t gone onto do more in their careers which is a pity because they do have obvious talent

As a footnote I was also shocked to see that two voters on this board have awarded DANCE OF THE SHIVA one out of ten . What ? These two voters think this short film is the worst thing they have ever seen ? I guess they must be from Pakistan
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Lean cuisine
karl-647 December 1999
I saw The Dance of Shiva at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: FAR OUT! As an American in Edinburgh I am glad to see some UK film makers haven't lost their touch. An important subject, a lavish production, definitely Lean cuisine. More please.
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Great cast, polished production but politically correct, historically inaccurate apologism
bob the moo10 April 2004
In the trenches of World War I, Chaplin Greville is placed in charge of the religious services for a unit that has English officers and Hindu soldiers serving together. He is initially unsure of how the men will work together - in particular how he can meet the religious needs of a group of savages who don't even know about God. However, in the trenches he is forced to see past his assumptions.

I was quite excited to see this as I had missed it a few years ago at a festival screening. The cast list alone was enough to draw my attention to it. I watched it a week or so ago when it was screened on television and I must admit that I was rather let down by it. The main failing is in the plot, it is not as interesting as the subject matter suggests it should be. The plot concentrates on the English more than the Hindus and this takes away from the supposed focus. It really should have done more to show one incident of sacrifice rather than trying to present a fuller picture in a short running time.

Aside from the specifics I found it annoying that the film simplified the history to make a film that seeks to apologise for the bad treatment that no one questions was dished out - however things did not happen like this. The Hindu soldiers deserve their story to be told, but they deserve a better film than this to do it. This main weakness makes the rest of the film even more wasteful - for the actual production is very good.

The cast is pretty good and features an early (and rare straight) role for Sanjeev Bhaskar, who does pretty well. The rest of the cast has quite a few big names in it (for a short) but they are not very well used. Branagh and McGann are both good actors but they have little to do. The production values of the film are also very high with a very realistic sense of time and place. The fact that this effort was put into a story that doesn't engage, doesn't resemble what really happened and is far too apologetic in nature rather than just letting the facts speak for themselves.

Overall, I am always willing to give any short film a try - whether it be student animation or an all star production, however this really needed more than a name cast and expensive production to draw me in. The history behind this story is far too interesting to be delivered in a manner such as this. I rarely say this about a short film, never mind a short film that had so much effort put in, but this film is not worth watching which is a shame because the production is good, the cast impressive and the actual story very worthy.
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Glad to see Commonwealth troops getting some credits
rufus-xs18 December 2006
Besides being a good foreign film (from an American point of view), I'm glad to see the movie industry given some recognition to the hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth troops that served in both WWI and WWII.

WWII is by far the most media covered armed conflict of all time, due to both its scope, its dramatic juxtaposition of perceived good vs. evil, and its coincidence with the advent of electronic mass media. Despite this, almost all WWII coverage deals exclusively with American, British, and Russian troops from an Allied perspective, and German and Japanese troops from an Axis perspective. Even WWI coverage deals primarily with British, French, and somewhat with Russian troops from an Allied perspective and with German/Austro-Hungarian (primarily Austrian in the latter case) from the Central Powers perspective.

Because of that perspective, most moviegoers who get their history from movies, televisions, and fictional literature aren't aware of the sacrifices of the other participants in both of those conflicts. Probably the most overlooked in terms of recognition relative to the level of involvement are the British Commonwealth soldiers from places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

For example, how many people who watch WWI/II movies/TV today know that there is an actual large stone monument to Army of India soldiers in Neuve-Chapelle, France? Or how many people today (outside of New Zealand and Australia) know what ANZAC Day is, or what it means? Or how many people who know the greatest flying Ace of WWI, Baron Manfred von Richtofen (A.K.A., "The Red Baron"), and who know that he was shot down, know that he was shot down by a Canadian pilot named Roy Brown? In fact, there is even a well supported historical theory that makes a very sound scientifically backed argument that The Red Baron was not killed by Roy Brown, as the official report states, but was killed by a single round from a ground-mounted Vickers Machine Gun operated guessed it, by a New Zealander! Either way, Richtofen was killed by a Commonwealth soldier! How many people today who watched Band of Brothers know the role that Indian units played in the Monte Casino campaign? How many people who are fond of quoting Winston Churchill today know the mass sacrifice that Kiwis and Aussies made a Gallipoli, for which Churchill was forced to resign from the post of Lord of the Admiralty? How many fans of The English Patient actually wondered why there was an Indian Sikh as one of the supporting actors? Or why his love interest was a Canadian nurse? This movie does a good job of highlighting just one of groups of unsung heroes, namely Indian troops fighting on the Western Front in France in 1915. I won't spoil anything, but this movie does highlight an overlooked and important part of the history of WWI.

Aside from the very important spotlight that this movie places on the overlooked hereos of yester-year, the movie itself is entertaining in a way that makes the viewer think a little bit about the assumptions that he/she may have. The acting is solid from a bunch of not extremely well known actors (Paul McGann is great, but he's not a household name in America anyway), and it's a story line that's solid given that it's not a plot-driven situation that's being examined, but more of a slice-of-life of those Indian soldiers in Europe in 1915.

I would definitely recommend this movie for both the casual and serious WWI armchair historian, as well as anyone who is interested in watch a non-action war movie that provides a different perspective on the Western Front.

WWI is somehow forgotten to an extent by the current generations, and that is a shame because of the sacrifice of so many whose lives (and deaths) ultimately shaped the world in which we're living today in a geographical and political sense. Even WWII was derived from WWI directly, and the borders, politics, style of warfare, and many other aspects of how we live today were defined not by WWII, but rather by WWI. This move provides a glimpse in to what the Western Front was like for some of those chaps who helped define our modern world today almost 100 years ago, but who have been all but forgotten by history in the mean time.
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An astonishing debut by a director with huge a future
darrenbakerphoto31 January 2000
The Dance of Shiva is an amazing film. Amazing because it tells a story that has been all but forgotten, amazing because of the array of talent gathered to tell that story and even more amazing because all this was pulled off by a director in his twenties, making pretty much his first film. The story is that of the sacrifices made by soldiers from the Indian sub-continent while fighting on the western front during World War One, and the prejudice they encountered while they served. To tell this story the director, Jamie Payne, has gathered together some of the biggest names of cinema both past and present. In front of the camera you can see Kenneth Branagh, Paul McGann, Sam West, Julian Glover and in a pivotal role Sanjeev Bhasker. They are joined behind the camera by Oscar winners cinematographer Jack Cardiff and production designer John Box. Jamie Payne has teamed them with a hole host of young talent and created what will, I believe, be viewed in retrospect as the film world's first look at a huge talent that can only grow and move onto bigger and even better things.
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Incoherent and pointless
james-3373 April 2004
Incoherent, meaningless, historically inaccurate and ultimately completely pointless. What was it trying to say or achieve? What was it about? Why was such a stellar cast wasted on this? Personally, I have no idea.

And for the record: regiments were either British or Indian (with British officers), not mixed; Indian sergeants were known as havildars, never as sergeants; British soldiers do not and did not wear beards; and Indian regiments were officered by British officers of the Indian Army, not officers who didn't understand their men and regarded them as 'savages', assisted by Indian native officers, not one of whom was in sight. Much of this was a blatant politically correct attempt to show how appallingly treated the Indians were. Many Indians, incidentally, were decorated for bravery, including with the Victoria Cross, so the idea that an act of gallantry by Indian troops would be ignored is complete fabrication.

The Indian troops who fought in the Great War certainly deserve a film tribute, but they deserve better than this.
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Dance of Shiva--a Hornblower-centric Review
Karen (surreyhill)8 July 2004
Here's the great thing about Dance of Shiva, now that I've watched it. If you start painting all your fingernails and toenails during the opening sequences, they will be completely dry when the movie ends. The movie ends neither too soon, which would leave them still tacky when you got up to turn it off, nor does it run long enough to disqualify it as a good excuse to sit down and paint your nails and let them dry thoroughly before starting in on any other projects.

Briefly, because there's really no other way to discuss it, this short film attempts to tell something about the heroism shown by a troop of Bengal Lancers under British command during WWI, and by Bengal, I mean they are Bengali, from India. Paul McGann plays a chaplain who is trying to reconcile his mission as a promoter of the Christian faith with the very laudable goal of trying to respect the Hindu religious beliefs and philosophy which unify his Bengal unit and are the source of their courage and strength. Shiva dances the dance of life and death, entertwined, you see, so one feeds upon the other, and there is no reason to be afraid of either. The British don't see it quite the same way, of course, and so Sam West eventually shows up in the arrogant twit Aryan bigot role to throw up on his boots when confronted with the grim realities of trench warfare. But really, there's not any actual plot--as such.

Samuel West has hardly any lines in this movie, which is sort of a crime when you consider the folly of hiring one of the most golden-throated actors in all of England to be in your short flick, and then not giving him much more to say other than..."Ooof....urp.....glgugggggghhhrrggg....<splat>". Not cool. However, those of you who felt that his syphilitic seizures in "The Ripper" compared unfavorably to Jamie Bamber's epileptic fits in the role of Horatio Hornblower's "Archie Kennedy" (which they did) will be greatly reassured by the the realistic portrayal of shivering and puking and attempting to keep from puking in Shiva. I suppose it's simply a matter of matching the sudden-onset, uncontrollable, publicly-disturbing, involuntary manifestation of a medical problem to the actor. In Mr. West's case, the barfing and shivering thing was really working well for him.

Horatio Hornblower's Faithful Lt. Bush, Paul McGann, looks great in a priestly collar, but less well in a WWI-era helmet than he does in a bicorn. The timbre of his husky voice is mostly wasted, but he has the opportunity to display that long, beautiful, austere face in a variety of concerned and thoughtful moments of observation, reflection, and compassion. Screencappers, start your engines.

There's a neat little association here for the Potter movie fans. Branagh (bearded) has a few lines in the beginning, which he delivers with characteristic gusto, and then later on, a guy named Julian Glover shows up. Glover was the voice of Aragog the giant spider in Chamber of Secrets, and of course, Branagh was Gilderoy Lockhart.

La, what strange bedfellows these obscure British art-house flicks make.
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A beguiling piece of cinematic artisitry
straylight26 March 2000
I saw this film at its premiere in london and was astounded by the beauty of the photography. It looks fabulous and it is clear to see why Branagh and McGann were inticed into roles in the picture. It is an art-house epic and proves that cinema does not have to be high budget to devastate. Andrew Dickinson pulls off a fine debut as a young lad in the trenches and the costumes in general are superb.
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A short film of epic proportions that manages in just 26 minutes to say more about faith, injustice and prejudice than many films four times its length.
archie2922 June 1999
Visually and acoustically stunning: it reminds us of a golden age of British cinema and shows us that there is plenty of hope for another in the near future. Its strong anti-racist theme and argument for a wider multicultural understanding make it a very timely statement at the end of this century. This young director's remarkable achievement is clearly generating considerable envy among lesser talents. However the rest of us are eagerly looking forward to whatever he does next.
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