Swells to a drama that is riveting

A Passage to India (1984) ***** Starring: Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft. Director: David Lean.

A Passage to India is a fine film. One becomes immersed in the grand sweep. One surrenders to it and hopes it doesn’t become spoiled by some off-putting scene that ruined the lot. The characters, their lives in the old British India, the roles the actors play, and the handsome production swells to a drama that is riveting.

Central to it is young British woman Adela (Judy Davis) who is meeting up with her fiancé in India, who is a magistrate. Along with Adela is his mother Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft). Adela is caught up in the romanticism of the country and is keen to discover more—details like this are so natural and true to life that one can immediately relate.

The Indian country is keenly observed and wanting to be discovered by Westerners. Adela and Mrs. Moore are immensely involved in the search. They are not proud that they are English and don’t look down on the locals. They don’t consider their privileged place in India because of her son being a magistrate as much to be boasted about.

The young woman is distraught, though, when she claims rape by an Indian guide, in a moment that seems uncertain and vague. The guide, Aziz (Victor Banerjee), who is a respected doctor, has the Indian people behind him who are upset by the claims.

East and West meet romantically, but also comes with a hefty dose of realism where East and West clash–the doctor is caught up in a scandal and controversy erupts, casting a blight on the British. The result of the scandal is grief and soul searching with a more abstract issue to consider, but also quite real: forgiveness.

A holiday which turned dramatic and where no one wanted it to. The larger meaning is the relationship between England and colonial India. The human meaning is underlying prejudice and fear of the unknown.

A Passage to India is based on the E.M. Forster novel of the same name, which was published in 1924 during the days of colonial England. The film is beautiful and grand, wonderfully acted, and larger than life-like characters engage vividly and vitally. It is especially recommended for thoughtful audiences and fine film aficionados.


As you are chosen…

It’s funny how a faith text can challenge you, as the facts of the text stare you in the face. When one is dealing with what’s actually present in the text, one sees the reality of the scripture.  Themes arise from the facts. And personal stuff.

So, I came to reading Genesis chapter seventeen which in fact is about God promising Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan in perpetuity.

Abraham was also promised to be the father of many nations that arose out of him. This chapter is significant because it points to the origins of Israel and the Church.

With seeing the facts, there is understanding. God chooses and with it comes responsibility and long term consequences. This is not a matter of being wise in hindsight. It is a matter of being faithful to what God has said and with it God has promised a future life.

More sentimental than the book

Sentiment appears to be easier at the movies: just add music to intimate material

In Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker is about to reveal a family secret to Princess Leia. This is a warm hearted family scene, a scene of family connection. It is naturally warm and sentimental scene.

The scene couldn’t have a tone of gravitas. That would be too grave. There was no other way to tackle this warm hearted family scene.

Can the sense of breadth of warmth and sentiment that’s in the movie be in the book?

I did get the sense in the book of family connection, which is the point of the scene, but not up to the same level of emotional tone that’s in the movie.

Books and movies do the same content of the same scene quite differently.

Too much

This was too much in the final analysis, when it goes too far and too strange. Let me set the picture.

I’ve been reading a scene from the novelization of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi that works as a transition to the next phase of the story. It’s important for setting up what follows.

In the movie it is a very sentimental scene as the rebels try and convince the natives to join them on their mission. The scene is also about Luke Skywalker walking into his destiny, to face the villain, not that he’s there yet, but it’s coming.

The book is longer in describing how the rebels try and persuade the natives (The furry ‘ewoks’) to come on board, but this detail is not in the movie, an appeal to the natural environment of the ewoks. If it was included in the original screenplay I can imagine why they decided to leave it out of the movie. I found it almost laughable. Too much. I like trees, but Princess Leia telling the ewoks, do it for the trees, was the last straw.


Keeps one off-kilter

Frantz (2016) **** Starring: Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stotzner, Marie Gruber. Director: Francois Ozon. Loosely adapted from the film Broken Lullaby (1932).

Frantz is not a straightforward film, from beginning to end, one is more off-balance at the end than how it started. The premise is instantly off-balancing, but the progression of the story more so.

Paula Beer is subtly magnetic as Anna, a grieving fiancé who is taken by the mysterious stranger to her fiancé’s grave. One does not know why he is placing flowers on Frantz’s grave, but when Anna invites him back home, his story is so plausible that Anna’s in-laws are given some catharsis over the death of their son.

But is he telling the truth? Adrien’s body language and sometimes evasiveness may give him away although he works himself into their hearts—with Anna’s heart the most receptive.

This refreshingly good black and white, sometimes colourised film from France is essentially about finding forgiveness post-World War I, but keeps one subtly off-kilter, like the characters in the story.

The off-kilter effect infuses the theme of the consequences of guilt and what it does to people.

Edouard Manet’s painting Le Suicide, which depicts suicide, is referenced in the film, quite uncomfortably in a sense, but also thoughtfully in the resolution, which doesn’t appear to condone suicide.

Frantz may put some off because it is by nature not straight forward and is disorientating. But the dramatic tension builds, and the performances are memorable.


Death, where is your victory?

In personalize the theme of my recent poem at Pete’s poetries, what’s in my life that makes it better than the prospect of death? What life and hope do I have? “When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is you victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, Jerusalem Bible).

That special one

I’ve been musing on what Star Wars film I like best, while reading the original trilogy based on the films. This is not a review of any particular film or book in the Star Wars lexicon. I still rate them the same. But I wondered, on reading Return of the Jedi, which was better? The Empire Strikes Back was a better story. But there’s something special about the original, A New Hope. It seemed everything else in Star Wars was supplementary and not even necessary compared to the first one. For years I thought The Empire Strikes Back was the best one. But although it’s very good, it has that supplementary or add-on feel to the original. Star Wars A New Hope is, for me, that special film and story, the one that no one needed to add to.