After a quick stroll through Astoria park, we arrived back home to watch another 1984 Best Picture nominee...
A Passage to India
(based on the novel by E.M. Forster and the play by Santha Rama Rau)
Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft, James Fox, Alec Guinness, Nigel Havers
2 wins, for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Score
A Passage to India is one of those films that I've always been meaning to see because of its pedigree, but never quite got around to because ... well, honestly, it just seemed like it would be boring. The subject matter simply didn't appeal to me. Then again, I really didn't know much about its content, so I'm not sure why I came to that conclusion. The lesson? Don't judge a book by its cover ... or a film by its poster, as the case may be.
Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore head to British colonial India in the 1920s to visit city magistrate Mr. Heaslop, both Miss Quested's fiancé and Mrs. Moore's son. Dismayed by the local Britons' lack of interest in Indian culture and their disrespect of Indian people, the two women accept an invitation by Dr. Aziz to take a somewhat gruelling journey to some legendary caves. The elderly Mrs. Moore soon becomes exhausted and decides to remain with the main group while Miss Quested and Dr. Aziz continue with a local guide. After a short time, however, Miss Quested scampers away from the caves in clear distress. Once back in town, Dr. Aziz is charged with attempted rape, resulting in a controversial trial that incites hostility between the Indians and the British.
With David Lean as the director, you know to expect some beautiful sweeping landscapes and this film does not disappoint in that regard. There are some truly majestic scenes to which a humble TV screen hardly does justice. The first half of the story unfolds in a relatively leisurely pace but there is gratification in meeting the vivid characters, especially the excitable Aziz, who delivers some of the film's most amusing lines. For instance, upon describing his late wife, he proclaims, "She was not a highly educated woman ... or even beautiful."
At approximately the halfway point, things become much more engaging. The events in the caves are deftly treated with plenty of mystery and the trial is just as engrossing. The characters become a tad black and white, though, as it is painfully clear as to which side of the proceedings each person is leaning. There is simply no middle ground.
Despite the occasional melodramatic moments in performance, the cast are all superb. Aussie Judy Davis delivers a captivating portrayal as Miss Quested, and Alec Guinness is almost unrecognisable as an Indian religious scholar. All in all, a very pleasant film.