Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A PASSAGE TO INDIA (David Lean, 1984, UK) David Lean’s poetic composition about Adela Quested, a young naïve British woman who travels to India to join her fiancé Ronny, a district magistrate, and her encounters with the ugly and morally superior British elite and their racist attitudes towards the native population. The dichotomy is magnificently presented in the opening scenes as Adela’s chauffer, after picking her up at the train station, practically runs down any Indian in his way. She is taken to the lush green gardens of an English village that squats among the poor and desolate neighborhoods: the British are totally insulated from any cultural infection. The story concerns Miss Quested’s spiritual and emotional journey to India and her brutal condemnation of the innocent Dr. Aziz, a local Indian doctor she falsely accuses of rape. In typical Lean fashion, the drama unfolds gradually but with specific focus on characters and events building to the inevitable and powerful final act. The gorgeous cinematography captures many indelible moments: such as Dr. Aziz’s outstretched hand and the subtle flirtatious hesitation before Adela responds, the illusory town seen through the scintillation and fog removing Adela gently from reality, the majestic mountains like some dead god watching over its creation, the characters insignificant lost insects scrambling about the rock, a violent blood stained blouse, the lost temple and the Kama Sutra etched forever in stone, and finally Adela’s forlorn visage through rain streaked glass. Lean’s editing patterns act as punctuation: he frequently cuts quickly from dialogue to a sharp sound or motion, just enough to keep us on edge. This is really a beautifully constructed film and David Lean’s final masterpiece. (B+)

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