Friday, February 10, 2012

A Passage To India (1984)

A Passage To India (1984) ★★★ 2/5

Set in India in the 1920's, Adela Quested (Judy Davis) and Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft) head to India from England to visit Ronny Heaslop (Nigel Havers). Heaslop is the son of Moore and the fiancee of Quested. While visiting, the English women befriend a local Indian man, Dr. Aziz Ahmed (Victor Banerjee). Ahmed takes them about India and heads an expedition to explore rural caves. While in the caves, Quested is attacked. At the time of her attack, she is alone and we as viewers do not see the attack. We are shown her fleeing from the cave, bloody and in shock. Moore takes her from the caves and into town. Once in town, the story is told that the attack was actually a rape in which her accuser was Ahmed.

The issue becomes a highly political matter dividing the upper class British from the lower class Indians. Moore is disgusted by the entire situation and takes the opinion that Ahmed is innocent. Because she is in such opposition to the charges being made, she flees the country and heads back to England. Before the trips end, she dies of a heart attack on board the ship. In India, the trial continues without her. When Quested takes the stand, she proclaims that it was not Ahmed that raped her.

Ahmed is set free and leaves the British occupied India to make a new life in rural India. Time passes, and Ahmed is able to put his anger aside and writes a letter of atonement to Quested.

The movie itself has been highly regarded as a masterpiece and one of the best translations of a novel to film. There are strong performances. There are also understated performances, including Alec Guinness as Professor Godbole. Personally, I did not find this film to be that great. The story was slow and a lot of time was spent in establishing the relationship between the British women and their Indian friend. Quite a bit of time was taken until we were actually brought to the main conflict of the film which involved the rape scene. Once that scene occurred, the movie was gripping and the trial was without a doubt the best portion of the film. There was intensity and it was captivating. Tension between the British and the Indian characters was well played and gave a feel for the impact on the trial. Emotions were properly acted out and the weight of this trial could be clearly seen through the acting. While the outcome of Ahmed's innocence was reassuring, the film left complete disappointment as there really was no resolution as to what did happen to Quested. For all the time invested into this movie, I wanted to know what really happened. I do not feel that Ahmed had anything to do with the rape, and almost think that the echos in the cave drove Quested to scratch at herself. I doubt there was even a rape. When the movie ended I felt completely let down and disappointed that we as viewers were led down the opposite storyline we wanted to hear.

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