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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Gandhi (25th Anniversary Edition) (1982)

"The function of a civil resistance is to provoke response and we will continue to provoke until they respond or change the law. They are not in control; we are."
- Mahatma Gandhi (Ben Kingsley)

Review By: Jesse Shanks  
Published: March 27, 2007

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

MPAA Rating: PG for Some material may not be suitable for children (adult themes, violence)
Run Time: 03h:11m:02s
Release Date: February 20, 2007
UPC: 043396174375
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
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 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 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 seem determined to divide people, whether they be political or religious. The British use the excuse 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 nation for themselves. When Gandhi asked his people to fundamentally change their society and religion, he meets enormous 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 the story to the level of one of the great films of world cinema, as there is much to learn about the lingering effects of colonialism in our world today.

Gandhi dominated the Academy Awards in 1983. Kingsley won Best Actor for his portrayal of the leader. 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. Technically, Attenborough's film picked up awards for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Film Editing. Additionally, it received nominations for makeup, music, original score and sound. Winning the Oscar for Best Picture was fait accompli.

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 him as a breathing, believable human. When he arrives at the port in Bombay and is asked to say a few words to the crowd is simply 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 countered by 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. Look for Daniel Day-Lewis in a bit part as a South African street kid.

Attenborough creates a cinematic work of art with his execution of such an amazingly ambitious project. It is just difficult to find a false note throughout as a piece of fictionalized history. The beauty of India becomes a character on its own in Attenborough's loving portrayal. As the movie proceeds and the leaders of the Indian Congress speak of a place called "India," we have some sensation of this proud place they are talking about. All the elements combine for a potent dramatic experience. The imagery, the sweep of history, the music, the sounds and the drama of human interaction on many, many levels are tremendously realized.

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 the movie and Gandhi the man challenge 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

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The widescreen anamorophic 2.35:1 image transfer is improved by the shifting of the special features to a second disc remastering in high definition for standard DVD. This is a release that can certainly show off the quality of a brand new digital TV. 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. This multi-Oscar-awarded film set a high standard of expectation and here those technical achievements are delivered intact.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanish, Frenchyes
DS 2.0Portugueseyes
Dolby Digital

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 dubbing and the sonic renderings of the Portuguese, French and Spanish channels are quality listening.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 0 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, French
1 Original Trailer(s)
13 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Richard Attenborough (with Portuguese, Korean and Spanish subtitles)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Designing Gandhi: Building the Ashram, The Tent, Finding Trains
  2. In Search of Gandhi
  3. Looking Back, The Funeral, Reflections on Ben, Shooting an Epic in India
  4. Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad
  5. Ben Kingsley Talks About Gandhi
Extras Review: The 25th anniversary edition does not sport as fancy a cover as the original release of the film on DVD back in 2001, but it does boast an expansion onto two discs and the inclusion of almost 90 minutes of new discussion about the making of the film and the figure portrayed.

New to this edition:

Designing Gandhi: Building the Ashram (01m:16s), The Tent (02m:06s), Finding Trains (02m:16s): Discussions of unique problems and solutions in creating the sets for Gandhi.

In Search of Gandhi (09m:25s), Looking Back (19m:20s), Reflections on Ben (09m:23s), Shooting an Epic in India (17m:55s), The Funeral (13m:33s): All of these segments are reflections by Richard Attenborough on various aspects of the production.

Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad (09m:40s): Story of an early female English follower of Gandhi and the actress who portrays her.

From the Director's Chair #1: On Casting (07m:03s), From the Director's Chair #2: On Music (02m:54s): More from director Attenborough

Galleries: Vintage Lobby Cards

Interactive chart: Milestones in the Life of Gandhi

Ported over from the previous version:

The Words of Mahatma Gandhi (1m: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.

Vintage Newsreel Footage: These are fascinating on two levels. On one hand, we see the real leader in 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 (03:36s), Gandhi's Farewell Talk in Europe (01m:04s), Mahatma Gandhi Begins Death Fast (47s), Gandhi Talks (04m:15s)

Ben Kingsley Talks About Gandhi (19m:21s): This is a very interesting series of reflections by the Oscar-winner actor 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 (Video Montage): 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.

Extras Grade: A+


Final Comments

A great film and a fine refresh of the DVD release for its 25th anniversary with a marvelous set of extras for devotees of the film and its figures. 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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