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A PASSAGE TO INDIA

Director: DAVID LEAN

U.K. • 1984 • COLOUR • DOLBY STEREO • 163 MIN


‘India forces one to come to terms with oneself,’ says Mrs Moore (Peggy Ashcroft), ‘it can be rather disturbing.’ This is a classic statement of the unnerving self-revelations visited on David Lean’s English characters when they venture abroad. Mrs Moore’s companion, Adela (Judy Davis) wants to see ‘the real India’: instead she comes face to face with herself.
Adapted from E. M. Forster’s 1924 novel about colonialist arrogance, racism and alleged rape, the film sometimes deviates from its source, notably in a brilliant sequence when Adela strays from the beaten path and comes across a ruined temple brimming with sexual heat and crawling with animal vitality, the sight of which puts her to flight. Lean’s masterstroke is to make Adela (a dull character in the novel) not only the film’s focus but the summation of his heroines. She completes the sad circle begun by Laura in ‘Brief Encounter’: someone to whom ‘nothing happens’ yet to whom everything could have happened in the dark cave of the imagination. Amidst the imposing visual spectacle, it is the intimate human drama that echoes.

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