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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Gandhi (1982)

"Where there's injustice, I always believed in fighting. The question is, do you fight to change things or do you fight to punish? I have found that we are all such sinners that we should leave punishment to God. And if we really want to change things... there are better ways of doing it than derailing trains or slashing someone with a sword."
- Mahatma Gandhi (Ben Kingsley)

Review By: Jesse Shanks  
Published: August 28, 2001

Stars: Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud
Other Stars: Trevor Howard, John Mills, Martin Sheen, Ian Charleson
Director: Richard Attenborough

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG for (adult themes, violence)
Run Time: 03h:10m:55s
Release Date: August 28, 2001
UPC: 043396032972
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-A- A

DVD Review

The genre of historical epic is realized on many levels with Gandhi. On the broad canvas of history, the film covers the emergence of India as an independent country in the last century. Focusing on the actions of one determined man, Mahandas K. Gandhi, the film follows him from his days as an idealistic, young lawyer who immigrates to South Africa to his ascension to the spiritual leadership of an independent nation of 350 million people. Following a victory against the Apartheid laws of South Africa, Gandhi returns to India as a hero and finds himself embroiled in the high-stakes fight for Indian independence, where a divided people attempt to use him for their own ends. However, as with the British, they find him to be difficult to control.

The message of the man called Gandhi is complex and difficult to capture in a story, even as long as three hours. The screenplay somehow effortlessly achieves the difficult task of humanizing these grand figures of history, as well as lend dramatic importance to the ideas of their struggles. When Gandhi attempts to change India's Hindu society, speaks in favor of the equality of women and the elimination of the "untouchable" class, we in the West can barely comprehend the importance of these issues as a sacrifice in his grand vision for his country. While Westerners can more easily understand the familiar story of the crumbling British Empire, we have a more difficult time with the internal strife and differences that represent this large and faceted country.

The central moral battle of the 20th Century—and today—is the fight to throw off the intellectual shackles that seemed determined to divide people, whether they be political or religious. The British use the issue of protecting the Muslim minority as a reason for their continued stewardship of the Indian sub-continent. Gandhi argues that both should be unified in one India, even as Muslims within his movement scheme to create Pakistan as a free and separate free country for themselves. When Gandhi asked his people to fundamentally change their society and religion, he met incredible resistance; it is amazing how the clear expression of ideas, found common to many creeds, can excite such opposition.

It is a tribute to Gandhi that these problematic ideas are not ignored and that their presentation is in a multi-faceted manner that allows for interpretation and subjective understanding. Several people watching this movie, who have differing views going in, will see key elements in different ways. This elevates Gandhi to a level of one of the great films of world cinema, as there is much to learn about the lingering affects of colonialism in our world today.

This film dominated the Academy Awards® in 1983. Ben Kingsley, who portrays Mahatma Gandhi won Best Actor. Director Richard Attenborough, who had labored for years against difficult opposition to make this epic, won Best Director. John Briley's literate and engaging screenplay took the award for Best Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen). Technically, Gandhi picked up awards for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design and Film Editing. Additionally, the film received nominations for makeup, music, original score and sound. Finally, it was awarded the Oscar® for Best Picture.

The performance by Kingsley exceeds all expectations in its subtlety and depth. Although he is impressive in those moments in which Gandhi is making speeches or appearing in a court, Kingsley also portrays Gandhi as a real-life, breathing human. When he arrives at the port in Bombay and is asked to say a few words to the crowd is beautiful acting; Kingsley becomes Gandhi, a man that is uncomfortable with his fame and hesitant about his qualifications as a leader. Yet, we also see a man who is learned, intelligent and shrewd in negotiation.

The other actors all bring an underplayed assurance and potency to their roles. The set piece scenes of conference and confrontation are marvelous bits of theater. Gandhi's quiet determination is counterpointed with the sometimes cynical, sometimes baffled actions of the bureaucrats. John Gielgud, John Mills, Edward Fox and Trevor Howard represent a powerful portion of acting. Each delivers credibly by bringing their own characters to life, no matter how brief the screen time, as well as a powerful, institutional characterization of British rule through the integrity of their work. The actors who portray the Indians are no less important in their efforts to lend an apparent authenticity to the proceedings. Rohini Hallangady as Kasturba Gandhi, Alyque Padamsee as Jinnah, and Roshan Seth as Pandit Nehru are all standouts.

Director Richard Attenborough created a cinematic work of art with his execution of such an amazingly ambitious project. It is just difficult to find a false note through the film as a piece of fictionalized history. The beauty of the country of India becomes a character on its own in Attenborough's loving portrayal of it. As the movie proceeds and the leaders of the Indian Congress speak of a place called "India," we have some sensation of this incredible place they are talking about. All the elements combine for a potent dramatic experience.

This film is really required viewing for anyone who loves motion pictures, as it is certainly one of the finest biographical epics ever made. As an intellectual adventure into the recent history of India, a country so impenetrable for Westerners, Gandhi challenges our world view, as human civilization grapples with the problems of the modern era. As a drama, it brings us face to face with the fundamental issues of human relations such as liberty and justice.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The widescreen, anamorophic, 2.35:1 image transfer is particularly fine. Moving from scenes of grandeur to those of intense intimacy is a treat for the eyes. Comments have been made about epic movies of this era, since they were made before the prevalence of computer generated effects; the high cost of filmmaking will probably mean that epics will never be made like this again. The Oscars®-awarded the film set a high standard of expectation and here the technical achievements of Gandhi are delivered in tact.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The English 5.1 mix is excellently executed. Great care has been taken to space sound effects to complement the visuals. The surround channels are most often used to enhance the musical score and this is used to great effect in pulling us into the events depicted. Both the French and Spanish channels are Dolby 2.0 and are decent, quality listening.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Thai
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Ben Kingsley Talk About Gandhi
  2. The Making of Gandhi Photo Montage
  3. The Words of Mahatma Gandhi
  4. Newsreel Footage
Extras Review: Gandhi comes in one of the most attractive cases I have seen. The keepcase slips into a plastic sleeve that contains information about the movie. Even when the sleeve is removed, the case is a very attractive package.

The menus are quite beautiful and not overly annoying, as some elaborate menu systems can be. Access is quick and logical. However, the package does advertise "motion images" in the scene selection and mine did not have this.

With historical epics, I have often bemoaned the lack of information included that helps define and illuminate the real person portrayed in the drama. Lawrence of Arabia was a major release that provided excellent historical detail that greatly enhanced understanding of the film. There is a decent stab at providing context on this disc. The extras make a nice connection between the real Mahatma Gandhi and the fictional man through various documentary elements. Surprisingly, for a beloved recent epic like this, there is no commentary track. In his interview comments, Ben Kingsley refers to forces against the film that found many mistakes, once it was finished. A daring type of commentary, especially for a disc of this type, would be to have representatives from both sides of the issue debate the questions of authenticity while watching the movie.

Ben Kingsley Talk About Gandhi (19m:13s): This is a very interesting series of reflections by Oscar®-winner Kingsley about the film, its cast and its subject. It is marvelous to see an actor of Kingsley's quality speak so articulately about the process of acting, and engagingly so about his fellow actors and crew members.

The Making of Gandhi Photo Montage (05m:19s): This is worth at least one look, if only to hear the lovely music of Ravi Shankar. The pictures are interesting, but not annotated in any way.

The Words of Mahatma Gandhi (01m:52s): This short slideshow of quotes, with music, helps to associate the fictional character of Gandhi with the real man. Something perhaps more useful would have been an essay about his writings; but to see Gandhi's actual words is very potent.

Newsreel Footage: The newsreel footage is fascinating on two levels. On one hand, we see the real Gandhi in actual historical settings, some of which are portrayed in the film; on the other hand, we are seeing the source material that Kingsley and Attenborough used to created the filmic Gandhi and can marvel at the fidelity of their vision: Gandhi Goes To England (03m:36s)
Gandhi's Farewell Talk to Europe (01m:04s)
Mahatma Gandhi Begins Death Fast (47s)
Gandhi Talks: First Talking Picture Ever Made by India's Famous Leader (04m:15s)

Filmographies: This section is nicely conceived and contributes to the impact of the film by showing the substantial credentials of those involved. Attenborough utilizes the gravitas of some great English actors to add potency to the characters they play. Edward Fox, Trevor Howard, John Gielgud bring lifetimes of screen presence to their roles and enhance the power of the portrayal of Colonial Britain. These actors also add potency to their scenes with Kingsley, as he is able to play off their presence to enhance the depiction of such a man facing off with an empire. Included are:
Richard Attenborough
John Briley (writer)
Ben Kingsley
Edward Fox
Candice Bergen
Trevor Howard
John Gielgud
John Mills
Martin Sheen

There is a slight error in the Filmographies section. When you access the Trevor Howard listing, the picture shown is actually John Mills. Then when accessing the John Mills section, the picture shown is a group shot featuring Kingsley.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

A great film and a great DVD. Richard Attenborough's Gandhi is a recommended addition to any collection, both for the film's excellence and its realization as home theater entertainment. Gorgeous for its visuals and engrossing in its writing and acting, this is one of the finest biographical epics ever made. Besides all that, its subject matter is important and engagingly portrayed. Ben Kingsley gives a great performance, supported by a cast of thousands, as he brings to life one of the most beloved figures of the 20th Century.

 


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