A Passage to India

Director: David Lean
Year Released: 1984
Rating: 1.0

It's really quite a shame this was great director David Lean's last film as it fails to add a fitting end to a visionary's lifework. Lean was certainly one of our most "painterly" filmmakers, and his images are like canvases, with objects and faces situated perfectly in them. Storytelling was a little ignored as a result: for every great image you get in his, say, Summertime, for example, despite Hepburn's good performance it fails to come off as anything more than an expensive travelogue: nice images but shallow meaning. In fact, Summertime is a good point of comparison when looking at A Passage to India since Lean, in this film, places a lot of weight on hokey sexual symbolism and metaphors. The weak plot and even weaker characters - who are "cardboard thin" - make "entry" into the film difficult, since you fail to care much for them. Judy Davis (tolerable, but nondescript) is the young British girl who sets out to India to marry, only to supposedly be raped by a quasi-homosexual Indian doctor, Aziz, and eventually trial in court. Lean's handling of this material is entirely too clumsy and too slow - the film belabors its meaningless points for far too long. In fact, most of the film is a trial to get through - its laggard pace is mostly alienating. Had Lean not directed this - I hold most of his films in high esteem - I would have turned it off sooner.