A PASSAGE TO INDIA [1984 / 2008] [Collector's Edition] [Blu-ray] [USA Release]
The Best Picture Of The Year!
Winner of two 1984 Academy Awards® for Best Supporting Actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Best Film Score Maurice Jarre, OSCAR® winning Director Sir David Lean 1962: ‘Lawrence of Arabia' and 1957 `The Bridge On The River Kwai' adapts E.M. Forster's novel of the political tensions in colonial India. Two-Time OSCAR® nominee Judy Davies 1984: Best Actress for ‘Husbands and Wives' stars as Adela Quested, a plucky young woman, who journeys from England with the free-spirited Mrs. Moore [Dame Peggy Ashcroft]. Flouting convention, the two women accompany the handsome Dr. Aziz [Victor Banerjee] to the mysterious Marabar Caves. But things turn ugly when Adela Quested [Judy Davies] returns injured from the expedition. As British authorities urges her to press charges against Dr. Aziz. Sadly the line separating truth and fantasy begins to blur dramatically.
FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Win: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Peggy Ashcroft. Win: Best Music for the Original Score for Maurice Jarre. Nominated: Best Picture: John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin. Nominated: Best Directing: Sir David Lean. Nominated: Best Actress in a Leading Role for Judy Davis. Nominated: Best Writing: Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Sir David Lean. Nominated: Best Art Direction for John Box and Leslie Tomkins. Nominated: Best Set Decoration for Hugh Scaife. Nominated: Best Cinematography for Ernest Day. Nominated: Best Costume Design for Judy Moorcroft. Nominated: Best Film Editing for Sir David Lean. Nominated: Best Sound for Graham V. Hartstone, Nicolas Le Messurier, Michael A. Carter and John W. Mitchell. Golden Globes® Awards: Win: Best Foreign Film. Win: Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Peggy Ashcroft. Win: Best Original Score for Maurice Jarre. Nominated: Best Director for Sir David Lean. Nominated: Best Screenplay for Sir David Lean. BAFTA® Awards: Win: Best Actress in a Leading Role for Peggy Ashcroft. Nominated: Best Film. Nominated: Best Actor for Victor Banerjee. Nominated: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for James Fox. Nominated: Best Adapted Screenplay for Sir David Lean. Nominated: Best Cinematography for Ernest Day. Nominated: Best Costume Design for Judy Moorcroft. Nominated: Best Production Design for John Box. Nominated: Best Film Music for Maurice Jarre.
FILM FACT No.2: E. M. Forster began writing ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ during a stay in India from late 1912 to early 1913 and he was drawn there by a young Indian Muslim, Syed Ross Masood, whom he had tutored in Latin, completing it only after he returned to India as secretary to a maharajah in 1921. The novel was published on 6 June 1924. It differs from E. M. Forster's other major works in the overt political content, as opposed to the lighter tone and more subdued political subtext in works such as ‘Howards End’ and ‘A Room With a View.’ David Lean had read the novel and saw the play in London in 1960, and, impressed, attempted to purchase the rights at that time, but E. M. Forster, who rejected Santha Rama Rau's suggestion to allow Indian film director Satyajit Ray to make a film, said no. Raising finance was difficult. EMI provided some initial money but Lean paid his own expenses scouting locations and writing the screenplay. Eventually the budget was raised from EMI, Columbia and HBO. The music was done by long-time Sir David Lean collaborator Maurice Jarre. According to wrote 45 minutes of music in two and a half weeks. He said, "David talks to me in images. A film artist never asks for an oboe to cover up a bad scene; a film artist doesn't think of music as medicine for a sick movie. Sir David Lean talks to me as he would talk to an actor." The director Sir David Lean told Maurice Jarre, “Maurice, I want you to write music right from your groin for this very long scene in the cave. This isn't a story of India; it's a story of a woman. I want you to write music that evokes awakening sexuality.” Maurice Jarre wrote 45 minutes of music in two and a half weeks. He said, "David talks to me in images. A film artist never asks for an oboe to cover up a bad scene; a film artist doesn't think of music as medicine for a sick movie. Sir David Lean talks to me as he would talk to an actor."
Cast: Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, James Fox, Sir Alec Guinness, Nigel Havers, Richard Wilson, Antonia Pemberton, Michael Culver, Art Malik, Saeed Jaffrey, Clive Swift, Ann Firbank, Roshan Seth, Sandra Hotz, Rashid Karapiet, H.S. Krishnamurthy, Ishaq Bux, Moti Makan, Mohammed Ashiq, Phyllis Bose, Sally Kinghorn, Paul Anil, Z.H. Khan, Ashok Mandanna, Dina Pathak, Adam Blackwood, Mellan Mitchell, Peter Hughes, John Michie (uncredited), Duncan Preston (uncredited) and Richard Winter-Stanbridge (uncredited)
Director: Sir David Lean
Producers: Edward Sands, John Brabourne, John Heyman and Richard B. Goodwin
Screenplay: E.M. Forster (based on the novel), Santha Rama Rau (based on the play) and Sir David Lean (screenplay)
Composer: Maurice Jarre (original composed music)
Cinematography: Ernest Day (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p (Metrocolor)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio
French: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Surround Sound
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish
Running Time: 164 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: If there is such a thing, the film ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’  could be described as a minor epic, one that tells a small story painted on a broad canvas. An almost unrecognisably fresh-faced and wide-eyed Judy Davis stars as Adela Quested, a young Englishwoman of the 1920s on her first trip out of Britain, visiting India to be with her fiancé working as a magistrate there. Travelling with her is feisty Mrs. Moore [Dame Peggy Ashcroft], the fiancé's elderly mother who freely speaks her mind with little regard for decorum. The two get along splendidly. Adela Quested seeks adventure and desires to see the exotic wonders of India. Mrs. Moore is less spirited, but respects the culture and people of the land. Both are disappointed upon arrival to be shuffled off away from the real India and isolated within the strictly segregated British community living in the country, which disdain the local people and have attempted to recreate every element of their home as if they'd never left.
From the introduction to an Indian way of life, to the oasis of the British Raj within it. ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ hustles and bustles with a complete vibrancy. Sir David Lean takes E.M. Forster's novel and tells the turn of the story in very much his hallmark style. In part it's down to the quality of the novel but the director really does take the credit for bringing it all to life. Ok, so it's arguably not in the league of `Lawrence of Arabia' or ‘Bridge on the River Kwai' but it's certainly no lesser a class to them.
This tale of ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ shows us the clashing of cultures which is complicated when Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested, against the wishes of Mrs. Moore's son and the stuffy Brits in their company, form a friendship with the affable Dr. Aziz Ahmed [Victor Banerjee], a young Indian man eager to introduce them to the glories of his country. Dr. Aziz Ahmed Aziz arranges for a picnic at the distant Marabar Caves, a landmark of some spiritual significance in the mountains. Unfortunately, the trip goes disastrously wrong for all involved, and its outcome inadvertently sets off a political firestorm between the outraged Indian populace and the racist British powers in charge.
As with all of E.M. Forster's novels, ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ is, at least in part, a story of manners and society, and the social boundaries drawn by class and race. As dramatized by Sir David Lean, the plot turns a little too preachy in its politics. It has some sudden shifts in character personalities that aren't sufficiently motivated by the events at the caves were meant to be ambiguous in the book, which was undoubtedly a tricky proposition to depict on screen, and Sir David Lean hasn't quite captured it. The last act also feels deflated and the picture wraps up with an unsatisfying anti-ending.
Modern audiences will likely find more troublesome the casting of Sir Alec Guinness painted up in brown face as the Indian character Professor Narayan Godbole. Even at the time, it was a controversial decision, if perhaps a bit more tolerable back in 1984. Thankfully, Sir Alec Guinness had the good sense to dial down the performance and avoid playing it broadly. The actor reportedly had grave reservations about taking the role and had to be talked into it by Sir David Lean. Honestly, if he weren't such a famous and recognisable British screen star, there isn't much in his portrayal to merit offense, though it does unavoidably grate.
In the film's favour, Sir David Lean mounted a stately production of the material, brought to life with lavish period detail and the director's exquisite visual sense. Despite its flaws, the epic film tells a compelling story with intelligence and grace. The picture set the template for the many Merchant-Ivory adaptations of E. M. Forster's works to follow, and remains a standout in the literary period piece genre.
This is Sir David Lean at his very best, in telling a story of conflict between competing cultures, exposing the bigotry and injustice inherent in an occupier-occupied state while showing audiences that there are generous, kind and compassionate people on both sides of every war, even if they are not able themselves, either through circumstance or choice, to stand up to those who perpetuate the turmoil. ‘A Passage to India’ is a strong film that in spite of its flaws gives one faith that in a just world, everyone can stand side-by-side without fear.
It is also truly wonderful that they can bring classic films like ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ right up to speed with the latest that the format has to offer. The image aspects of the film are excellent and Sony Pictures brings you a fantastic high definition re-incarnation of this film. It's one to be proud of for sure and I only wish that the audio had been equally as good. The included extra's make for excellent viewing and add real value to this Blu-ray disc. They've been thoughtfully put together and there is plenty of intelligent comment about the film from both the cast and senior crew. Bring the whole package together and this classic film becomes a totally recommended purchase.
Blu-ray Image Quality – ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ comes to Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Like most of the studio's product, the disc opens with an annoying Blu-ray promo. Apparently, nobody at the studio realises that someone already watching a Blu-ray disc doesn't need to be sold on how great Blu-ray is. Eschewing the wide CinemaScope grandeur of his most famous epics, and Sir David Lean opted to shoot ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ in a standard “flat” theatrical aspect ratio, allegedly to ensure that it would translate better to TV viewing. The Blu-ray is presented in a 1.66:1 European ratio, with a small pillar-box bars on the sides of the widescreen TV frame. The 1080p transfer has clearly undergone some restoration work since past home video editions, and looks very good for a Metrocolor production of the era. The source elements have a little bit of instability, including flesh tones that occasionally waiver from pallid to pinkish. Otherwise, the picture has very nice colour, detail, and texture. The individual beads of sweat on an actor's face are often strikingly visible. Being a Lean film, the photography is naturally quite gorgeous with stunning travelogue-style landscapes. The High-Definition image has a great many scenes of excellent clarity. On the downside, it appears that Sony has applied some artificial sharpening. Although edge halos aren't a problem, film grain often has a noisy electronic texture. Contrasts have also been boosted to give the video some extra pop, and the results can sometimes be a little hard on the eyes. Nevertheless, this is a fine-looking disc sure to please fans of the film.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The audio comes in the guise of a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack and I was actually a little taken aback by it. For a film of both its style and age I wasn't expecting much surround channel activity but you certainly do get some here. The rears can be filled with strange effects, from the bands playing the national anthem to the echoes in the Marabar Caves. The award winning score by Maurice Jarre accompanies the film at every opportunity and leaves you uplifted with a sense of joy. The style of the mix is certainly not unwelcome, but I was expecting this to be a front sound space dialogue centric affair. Speaking of which, the dialogue does tend to edge on the tinnier side of things. However, it's not gratingly so and dependent on your set up you may feel that it is fine. Personally I wish it had been a bit more balanced and be smoothed out.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary with Producer Richard Goodwin: Richard Goodwin is certainly a fellow who draws his words with measure. The audio commentary does as a result become rather too slow for my liking and as you progress further into the film the pauses between the scenes become increasingly so boring. Richard Goodwin also begins to fall into the typical trap of simply pointing out the obvious in what is literally is happening onscreen, do they thing the viewing public cannot work out what we are view? Nevertheless, once you get into his style, it's worth sticking with. But sadly I have heard much better audio commentaries, so it is entirely up to you whether you want to endure this audio commentary right through to the end of the film, it will be your choice.
Special Feature: Beyond the Passage  [1080p] [1.78:1] Calling this feature a “picture-in-picture” is kind of misleading. Instead we get to view video clips displayed on top of the film, and at certain moments the entire film image pauses briefly and then is shrunk down to a small portion of the screen, surrounded by a large border with trivia text notes printed to the side. After a few moments it will pause again and return to normal proportions. The Blu-ray disc case makes no mention of whether this function is a “Bonus View” or not. There is no secondary audio to go with the screen graphics. I suspect that this is not a true “Bonus View” facility. It is possible to listen to the audio commentary while this feature is also active, and I recommend that the combination saves time. The trivia notes are only mildly interesting and sparsely distributed. Frankly, the whole thing is a very annoyingly designed item. The trivia notes would have been better served to appear as pop-up subtitles.
Special Feature: E.M. Forster: Profile of an Author  [1080p] [1.78:1] [6:54] Peter Jones of Kings College Cambridge simply talks about the writer, his life and his works. Overall it is a very informative and interesting biography of the writer.
Special Feature: An Epic Takes Shape  [1080p] [1.78:1] [10:55] The cast and crew re-collect the experience of working with Sir David Lean and what it took to make the film. Most of it is led by Richard Goodwin and it's once again very measured and informative.
Special Feature: An Indian Affair  [1080p] [1.78:1] [13:38] This really follows on from the preceding special feature and the crew talk about India itself. What the attractions of this country are and how they went about trying to recreate the feel of the British Raj.
Special Feature: Only Connect: A Vision of India  [1080p] [1.78:1] [10:34] Cast and crew discuss the film once again but matters are a little more intimate here. You get to hear a lot of recollection in the way Sir David Lean used to do things and is interspersed with scenes from the film. The re-creation of India within the Shepperton Studios as well as the cultural reaction to this film is discussed.
Special Feature: Casting a Classic  [1080p] [1.78:1] [11:22] As you would expect the cast talk about how they were approached by Sir David Lean to ask to play their parts in the film. This is all pretty straightforward interview stuff really, but sadly both Judy Davis and Victor Bannerjee are missing. A highlight here is when Nigel Havers gives his thoughts on Judy Davis. Hmmm I don't think they got on very well whilst making this film.
Special Feature: David Lean: Shooting with the Master  [1080p] [1.78:1] [13:23] The cast talk extensionally about their relationship with director Sir David Lean and his style of direction. It's interesting to note that his style was very much from an editorial perspective. He also comes across as a man who knew his own mind and was set in his ways. Who are we to argue? Sir David Lean certainly knew his stuff and delivered it impeccably.
Special Feature: Reflections of David Lean  [480i] [1.37:1] [8:17] This is taken from VT footage of an interview with Sir David Lean himself. This is essential viewing and you simply have to watch this to appreciate the man and his intellectual thoughts.
Special Feature: The David Lean Collection  [1:56] This is a big American Promo Trailer informing us that the following Sir David Lean films ‘Bridge on the River Kwai,' ‘Lawrence of Arabia' and of course ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ are now available on a 2-disc Special Blu-ray and DVD Collections.
Trailers: Blu-ray Discs is High Definition [1080p] [1.78:1] [00:30] A massive Promo Trailer for the Sony Blu-ray format.
Finally, I cannot praise this truly classic film ‘A PASSAGE TO INDIA’ that brought back so many happy memories when I first saw this film when it was released in 1984, and gosh where has the time flown by, and I feel the way they have remastered this film on the Blu-ray format has made the film look even more stunning when it was originally released. One thing that really shocked me is when you see in the Extras and the people who helped Sir David Lean behind the scenes, where they will tell you that he was such a perfectionist and knew what he wanted out of everyone, especially the Actors, that he actually Edited the film himself and it is NOT credited anywhere and they felt he was robbed in NOT getting an OSCAR® for Best Editor. But despite this, the film is a totally magical experience and it makes you feel you are actually there and gives you the exotic flavour of India of the time and the way the British Empire treated the Indian people in such a terrible way. So all in all, if any of you Blu-ray aficionados out there who have not got this in your Blu-ray Collection, then you are missing out on something truly special and spectacular and now I am proud to add this to my ever increasing Blu-ray David Lean Collection and will give you endless hours of viewing pleasure. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso