Gandhi (1982)

gandhi_1982_poster
Gandhi (1982)
  • Time: 191 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | History
  • Director: Richard Attenborough
  • Cast: Ben Kingsley, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Candice Bergen

Storyline:

Biography of ‘Mahatma Gandhi’, the lawyer who became the famed leader of the Indian revolts against the British through his philosophy of non-violent protest.

One review

  • The late Richard Attenborough acknowledges the troubles with the biography genre from the get-go with his finest film as director, Gandhi. “No man’s life can be encompassed in one telling,” the opening credits state, “what can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and try to find one’s way to the heart of the man.” Yet Gandhi manages to achieve more than most biography’s by not only portraying the famous historical events that the man lived through, of which no doubt helped form his own ideals, but by showing us the real man behind the speeches and the fasting, who enjoyed spending time at peace with his loving wife or operating his spinning wheel.

    Wisely avoiding Mahatma Gandhi’s early life, we are first properly introduced to the man as he rides a first-class carriage in South Africa. He is thrown off for being a non-white, even though he possesses a first-class ticket and is a practising lawyer, and this event provokes him to form a non-violent civil rights movement. Through sheer will and stubbornness, the government eventually relents and passes laws benefiting the residing Indians, allowing Gandhi to return to India in the process. When he arrives in his native country as a hero, he witnesses the same prejudicial brutality at the hands of the occupying British Empire. Through more non-violent protests, Gandhi manages to unite millions against the British, causing a divide between the Hindus and Muslims in the process.

    Gandhi was a labour of love for Attenborough, who fought for over a decade to get to the film made. Alec Guinness was rumoured to be set for the role of Gandhi when the movie was still in the hands of David Lean, and after seeing Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of the great man, such an idea now seems utterly preposterous. Kinglsey’s performance is without a doubt one of the finest embodiments of a public figure in history, not only settling for a good impression and an uncanny resemblance, but convincing to the point that you believe Gandhi himself is on screen. It’s a quiet, dignified performance, often channelling Gandhi’s gentle charisma, shrewd wit and fierce intelligence without saying anything at all.

    For all it’s technical impressiveness – the film is undeniably beautiful, shot with a grandiose David Lean-esque epic feel with extra’s numbered in the thousands – it occasionally plods. Although the events in South Africa no doubt shaped Gandhi’s attitudes and spirit, we spend far too much time there, and this doesn’t allow the complex events in India to unravel with the time and care that they warrant. The aftermath of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the growing political and social unease between the Hindus and Muslims, and the events that led to Gandhi’s assassination are all rushed over the finish line. Without these flaws, Gandhi may have been a masterpiece. However it is still an enlightening experience, and the praise lavished upon Kingsley (as well as his Oscar) is wholly justified.

    Rating: 4/5

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