A Passage To India (1984)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

United Kingdom/USA, 1984EMI Films, Home Box Office, Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, New Gold Entertainment.  Screenplay by David Lean, based on the novel by  and the play by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

The failure of Ryan’s Daughter in 1970 was so hard on director David Lean that it took fourteen years for him to produce another film. The result was this sturdy, admirable adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel about the evils of colonialism in British-ruled India. Judy Davis is excellent as a young British woman who travels east to be with her career soldier husband. While on a sightseeing trip to the Malabar caves, she is so frightened when left alone with an accomplished Indian doctor () that she accuses him of rape.

The result is a long, drawn-out court battle where Forster shows us how justice is perverted by racism, colonialism and common ignorance. Peggy Ashcroft is marvelous as an older British woman who comes to the land in the spirit of learning, not judging, and is a strong counterpoint to Davis’s youthful naivete. Handsome and intelligent, the film runs a bit too long but is thought-provoking all the same, and Lean showed himself to be in top form behind the camera as director, writer and producer.

Academy Awards:  Best Supporting Actress (Peggy Ashcroft); Best Original Score
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actress (Judy Davis); Best Director (David Lean); Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing; Best Sound

Golden Globe Awards:  Best Supporting Actress (Peggy Ashcroft); Best Original Score; Best Foreign Film
Nominations: Best Director (David Lean); Best Screenplay

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