A Passage to India (1984)

PG   |    |  Adventure, Drama, History


A Passage to India (1984) Poster

Cultural mistrust and false accusations doom a friendship in British colonial India between an Indian doctor, an Englishwoman engaged to marry a city magistrate, and an English educator.


7.4/10
15,699

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  • Judy Davis and Victor Banerjee in A Passage to India (1984)

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24 March 2003 | jg1972
7
| a disappointment
David Lean has made some of the best films of all time (viz. "Dr. Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia"), and E. M. Forster is a delightful writer (viz. "Howards End" and "Room with a View"). This film, however, turns out to be a disappointment. While some other reviewers have loved it, I suspect that they have not read the novel. Moreover, as a pure story, it does not match up to Lean's earlier work.

The very essence of the story is the question, can Indians and Britons be friends? That is the heart of the novel, as Dr. Aziz and Mr. Fielding struggle to be friends as their societies conflict and they offend each other through misunderstandings. This is not really shown in the film. In fact, in some ways, the chief Anglo-Indian relationship in the film is a latent love between Dr. Aziz and Miss Quested. Lean leads us to believe that they secretly long for each other, but society (and they themselves) will not allow such a relationship. Additionally, Lean has changed much of the focus from an Indian story (about Dr. Aziz and his search for a place in colonial society) to a British one (about the place of British colonials in an alien place). This is reinforced by the invented opening scene of the movie, which is not in the novel.

I watched this film with a friend who had not read the novel, and she had a hard time following many of the plot twists.

Considering the novel as the premise, this is not an epic tale, and it was not suited for Lean's grand style. The more intimate style of Merchant-Ivory would have been appropriate here. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and Pasternak's "Dr. Zhivago" were epic novels needing broad strokes to appear on screen. Forster's novel mixed subtle satire with poignant portrayal of the dilemma's facing a Western-educated Indian under the British Raj. Most of that is lost in this film.

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