Sunday, January 16, 2011

1982: Gandhi

This film follows the wise, stubborn, and courageous Mahatma Gandhi, as he grows from a young Indian lawyer in South Africa to the non-violent leader of India's quest for independence from Britain.  Though he faces a great deal of resistance, both from the British and fellow Indians who prefer a more violent approach, he remains true to his ideals and refuses to back down.  Even after independence is gained and the Hindus and Muslims start fighting, Gandhi never stops preaching that non-violent protest is the best way to effect change until his assassination.

At first glance, this may seem like just another extremely long and depressing Best Picture.  But it's actually a really good movie, despite some significant dragging in the second half.  It was very informative without becoming boring; before I started this movie I knew very little about Gandhi, and now I feel like I know quite a bit about him.  I also thought Ben Kingsley's performance as the title character was amazing.  His transformation from a westernized, British-educated lawyer in a suit and with a full head of hair to a bald, highly-regarded Indian nationalist draped in homespun cloth is truly incredible, although I think some credit should go to the costume designers.  Ben Kingsley and the costume designers (Bhanu Athaiya and John Mollo) won Oscars for their contributions to this film, so the Academy obviously agreed with me.

However, I think this film's most powerful scene is one in which Gandhi himself isn't present.  One of Gandhi's followers is speaking to a large crowd in an enclosed space, and a bunch of British soldiers just start firing at the gathered unarmed men, women and children.  The brilliant camera and editing techniques in this scene, combined with the shocking nature of the incident it portrays, make it one that I will not soon forget.  This could have been just another long, depressing biopic, but there are certain aspects, like this particular scene, that set it apart from other similar films.

Up next: Terms of Endearment

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