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A Passage to India (1984)
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.