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Marya Zelli (Isabelle Adjani) finds herself penniless after her art dealer husband, Stephan (Anthony Higgins), is convicted of theft. Marya accepts the hospitality of a strange couple, H.J. (Sir Alan Bates) and Lois Heidler (Dame Maggie Smith), who lets her live in their house.
Anne is investigating the life of her grand-aunt Olivia, whose destiny has always been shrouded with scandal. The search leads back to the early 1920s, when Olivia, recently married to Douglas, a civil servant in the colonial administration, comes to live with him in India. Slowly, Olivia becomes fascinated by India and by the local ruler, a nawab who combines British distinction with Indian pomp and ruthlessness. This fascination is not without risks: the region is being ransacked by a group of sanguinary bandits, and intrigues are opposing the prejudiced British community led by Major Minnies and Dr. Saunders against the nawab. As Anne delves into the history of her grand-aunt, she is led to reconsider her own life.Written by
Eduardo Casais <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Unusually structured and travelling at about the speed of India's Metupalayam Ooty Nilgiri Passenger Train, this film still delivers an intriguing story.
Set in India it has the bonus of authentic locations, and features two beautiful actresses at different stages of their careers in the same movie, although they don't share a single scene together.
The story takes a little getting into. It's actually two intertwined stories and starts with Anne (Julie Christie) travelling to India to find out about the life of her great aunt Olivia (Greta Scacchi) - a forerunner of "Who Do You Think You Are?" Flashbacks reveal Olivia's story and the film cuts back and forth from one story to the other as we see that Anne's journey follows Olivia's path, and also begins to parallel her story.
A fascinating aspect of the movie is how it reveals two Indias: one under the British Raj during the 1920's, which Olivia inhabited, and the modern one of the 1980's that Anne experiences.
Over the years there have been many films about British rule in India - Hollywood loved an earlier period especially along the Northwest Frontier, but of late, British films and television have concentrated on the decades just before India's independence - the twilight of the Raj.
Another critical element in the drama is the relationship between a semi-independent prince, the Nawab of Khatm (Shashi Kapoor), and the British rulers. The film shows the attitudes of the British and Indians towards each other, and also the attitudes of the British towards their fellow Britons. It highlights the class system that existed between the races and how crossing that line was linked to the balance of power.
Despite being married to Douglas Rivers (Christopher Cazenove), a British colonial official, Olivia crosses the line, has an affair with the Nawab, and is virtually banished from both societies. Although Anne also has an affair with an Indian, it is 60-years later and no longer has the significance of her great aunt's fall from grace.
This film looks good and composer Richard Robbins created an evocative score blending electronics with Indian instruments.
Although the script and direction understates just about everything, even using narration to glide over what could have been emotion charged scenes, the combination of stars, locations and the lovingly recreated depiction of an era ensures that "Heat and Dust" still leaves an impression.
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