Thursday, October 30, 2014

717. A Passage to India (1984)

Running Time: 163 minutes
Directed By: David Lean
Written By: David Lean, from novel by E.M. Forster
Main Cast: Judy Davis, Peggy Ashcroft, Victor Banerjee, James Fox, Alec Guinness
Click here to view the trailer


Here I am, once again, having to be up in about six hours and swinging in first to write a review, ensuring that I'll only bank about five hours of sleep. Oh well - taking one for the team, I guess. Random thought of the night: What's with the name Banerjee in India? Is it like the name Smith in the states? on...

I started watching this on Wednesday night, while my wife was getting her weekly Survivor fix. When her show was over, however, I stopped to hang out with her, with plans to finish today - which I did. I have to say the first hour was doing nothing for me, while things definitely started to pick up when I continued today. The film stars Judy Davis as Adela Quested and Peggy Ashcroft as Mrs. Moore, two ladies who are traveling to India to visit the same man - Ronny Heaslop, a Brit who is the acting magistrate in the Indian town the girls are visiting; the latter's son and the former's fiance. Once there, it becomes apparent to the ladies that their fiance and son respectively has grown quite prejudiced toward the natives. Meanwhile, Mrs. Moore and Ms. Quested meet an Indian doctor named Aziz Ahmed (Banerjee), whom they take quite the shine to. There's also a school superintendent named Richard Fielding (Fox) who serves to introduce the two sides. The group gets along fine, but it's Heaslop who objects to (especially) his fiance's seeing of the Indian man. Later, the girls express an interest in wanting to see the Marabar Caves and a date is set for Ms. Quested, Mrs. Moore and Dr. Ahmed to have an outing to see the caves. While touring the caves, Mrs. Moore becomes claustrophobic while inside and decides to leave to sit down. From there, Aziz and Adela decide to climb the mountain and see the caves that are higher up. While away (alone), Aziz steps away for a cigarette and Adela gets lost inside one of the caves. A mixture of heat exhaustion and claustrophobia, not to mention the mind numbing echo from the mountains, sends Adela into a hallucination, sending her running down the mountain with accusations of rape toward Dr. Ahmed.


Kind of odd, this one was as it had every right to be as long as it was, except it was too long in some parts and not long enough in others. Like I said, the entire first hour left me almost completely unenthralled and ready to give this film quite the low rating. It seemed to drag on for that full first hour with really not a lot to offer. It wasn't until we get into the expedition to the caves and the accusations of rape that things really start to take a turn toward the interesting, but by then, we're in the home stretch, which just seemed way too rushed. I would have personally liked to have seen them take about twenty - thirty minutes from the first hour and inject it into the final forty five minutes, so that we could get a little more closure to everyone's situation. I don't often agree with the thoughts, ideas and theories written in THE BOOK, however, I think they nailed it on the head this time - and I quote, "It's not as forceful or thought provoking a conclusion as it could (or should) have been...". From that, I gather that the ending was unsatisfying for not just yours truly. I just didn't understand, first the motivations of the Ms. Quested character and later, the motivations of Dr. Aziz. First with Quested, why accuse someone (someone who you've befriended) of rape for absolutely no reason? Are we to believe that the heat and the tight space & echoes of the cave suddenly turned her into a falsely accusing, life wrecker? I just don't buy that. From there, we're meant to believe that the people around her have coached her into thinking a certain way, except she never showed the personality traits of being someone who was easily swayed prior to the incident. And then, all of a sudden, while being questioned in court, she withdrawals her statements! WHAT?! From there, Dr. Ahmed, the film's hero and main "good guy", suddenly turns into a big jerk and basically tells Fielding where to go - the man who just took committed societal suicide on behalf of his Indian friend! WTF?

Here, more than with any other film, I get the feeling that the book is better than the movie. I feel like certain things were left out, leaving us to ponder way more than we should be pondering. I actually liked the movie fairly well, but was let down by the rushed and improper ending and felt that more explanations to the characters actions, as well as some more general closure could've gone a long way in tying up some loose ends and left me a much happier movie goer. Add to that the chopped down first half and this film had serious potential to be a big favorite of mine. As it is, I can only say I liked it, at best and leave it at that. The acting was fine (of course, because a lot of the cast is English and they invented acting) and at times, the cinematography is jaw dropping (hence why I just had to include four stills from the movie within this review). You also have David Lean at the helm, proving that even at seventy something years old, he could still hammer out an epic, worthy of multiple award noms. The only cast choice I had a problem with was Guinness, who was basically wasted, being dressed up as an Indian and playing nothing more than a supporting character. I guess if I had to complain about any other cast member, it would be Judy Davis. The woman did a fine job, it's just that I never expect to see her in anything but Woody Allen movies and I'm sorry, but I take my Judy Davis with a potty mouth, thank you very much!

RATING: 6.5/10  This was a roller coaster, as it started out getting a low rating, then turned around to earn back a lot of points, only to ultimately lose them to the okay but less than desirable ending.


October 30, 2014  11:11pm

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