Film: Gandhi

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Film:

Gandhi

Director: Richard Attenborough
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Genres:
Distributor: Columbia Tri-Star Home Video

Gandhi is a great subject, but is Gandhi a great film? Undoubtedly it is, not least because it is one of the last old-school epics ever made, a glorious visual treat featuring tens of thousands of extras (real people, not digital effects) and sumptuous Panavision cinematography. But a true epic is about more than just widescreen photography, it concerns itself with noble subjects too, and the life story of Mahatma Gandhi is one of the noblest of all. Both the man and the film have profound things to say about the meaning of freedom and racial harmony, as…

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Gandhi is a great subject, but is Gandhi a great film? Undoubtedly it is, not least because it is one of the last old-school epics ever made, a glorious visual treat featuring tens of thousands of extras (real people, not digital effects) and sumptuous Panavision cinematography. But a true epic is about more than just widescreen photography, it concerns itself with noble subjects too, and the life story of Mahatma Gandhi is one of the noblest of all. Both the man and the film have profound things to say about the meaning of freedom and racial harmony, as well as how to achieve them. Ben Kingsley, in his first major screen role, bears the heavy responsibility of the central performance and carries it off magnificently; without his magnetic and utterly convincing portrayal the film would founder in the very first scene. Sir Richard Attenborough surrounds his main character with a cast of distinguished thespians (Trevor Howard, John Mills, John Gielgud and Martin Sheen, to name but four), none of whom do anything but provide the most sympathetic support. John Briley’s literate screenplay achieves the almost impossible task of distilling the bewildering complexities of Anglo-Indian politics. Attenborough’s treatment is openly reverential, but, given the saint-like character of his subject, it’s hard to see how it could have been anything else. He doesn’t flinch from the implication that the Mahatma was naïve to expect a unified India, for example, but instead lets Gandhi’s actions speak for themselves. The outstanding achievement of this labour of love is that it tells the story of an avowed pacifist who never raised a hand in anger, of a man who never held high office, of a man who shied away from publicity, and turns it into three hours of utterly mesmerising cinema. —Mark Walker

Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1982 multiple-Oscar winner (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley) is an engrossing, reverential look at the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who introduced the doctrine of nonviolent resistance to the colonized people of India and who ultimately gained the nation its independence. Kingsley is magnificent as Gandhi as he changes over the course of the three-hour film from an insignificant lawyer to an international leader and symbol. Strong on history (the historic division between India and Pakistan, still a huge problem today, can be seen in its formative stages here) as well as character and ideas, this is a fine film. —Tom Keogh

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