Set in 1928, this film portrays an indelibly sardonic picture of British life in territorial India.The story concerns Adela Quested, who is a free-spirited British woman, played by (Judy Davis), whohas settled in India and is to marry Ronny Heaslop (Nigel Havers), a town magistrate. She is befriended by the charming Dr. Aziz (Victor Banerjee), but it's a friendship that ultimately leads to tragedy.
Before Merchant Ivory took on A Room with a View
and Howard's End
, David Lean (1908-1991) adapted E.M. Forster's more difficult 1924 novel A Passage to India
(actor/director Richard Wilson describes it as "almost un-filmable"). Nominated for 11 Academy Awards--composer Maurice Jarre and actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft won Oscars for their work--Forster's final book provides the material for Lean's last movie. This two-disc set grants the intimate epic the context it deserves. The seven featurettes on the second disc, which play collectively as one documentary, cover cultural and artistic matters. Participants include James Fox (Fielding), Nigel Havers (Ronny), Art Malik (Ali), and producer Richard Goodwin, who offers the erudite commentary on disc one. (About the six-month shoot, Havers exults, "The whole of India will just blow your socks off." Apparently, no one wanted to return to Shepperton Studios afterwards.) At the time this collector's edition was in production, Lean, Ashcroft, and Sir Alec Guinness had passed on. Nonetheless, Oscar nominee Judy Davis (Adela) is notable by her absence--and the same could be said of Jarre and Victor Banerjee (Dr. Aziz). Otherwise, Columbia has done an admirable job in lining up the principal cast and crew, and fans of the director are sure to find archival interview "Reflections of David Lean" particularly interesting, since he discusses other films and actors, like 1957 best picture winner The Bridge on the River Kwai
with Guinness and William Holden. --Kathleen C. Fennessy