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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Historical > British > India > Gandhi – 25th Anniversary DVD Set

Gandhi – 25th Anniversary DVD Set


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B



As a historical figure, Gandhi was embraced by the counterculture as much as anyone, but so much was not known about him and with that culture on the wane, what he did could so easily been lost.  Sir Richard Attenborough had been a major British filmmaker for decades when he took on John Briley’s epic screenplay for a life story on the key historical figure and the resulting 1982 film Gandhi became one of the biggest critical and commercial successes of Attenborough’s career.


Like David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia (1962), it not only dug deeply into the history and soul of the character, it launched another great acting career like that of Peter O’Toole.  This time, it was Ben Kingsley, the then-unknown actor whose performance was so haunting and uncanny that it shocked everyone who saw it.  Even though Kingsley is far more familiar now a quarter-century later, you can still mistake him for the real man.


After showing his death via assassination (Lawrence Of Arabia began with his traffic death), then starting from the beginning of the story to show how he went from a simple existence to taking on The British Empire with passive resistance.  Though the British (and Winston Churchill was among them) were not happy with him to say the least, it is said that his assassin was a representative of Right Wing Nationalists from India who did not like Gandhi’s embracing of Muslims.  Whether it is that simple is another story is another matter, but speaks to the somewhat valid criticism that the film may be a bit cleaned up in its storytelling.


Additionally, this worked against the film in its time in particular from Right Wing reactionaries in its release that Gandhi was a joke and his peaceful ways would not work because he was a rarity whose efforts were only temporary.  We now know that there are propagandic reasons, none good, for someone to want to marginalize him and his legacy.  Though this film is not perfect, it does far more good than harm in telling us the deeper truth about the man and well enough that no one has even suggested revisiting the material.


Suddenly more relevant than ever, the film shows the kinds of sacrifice it takes to change the system and after any such ideas have been dumbed down (disturbingly so) so much of late, the film (like Lawrence) captures the heart of the matter of world affairs, the root of war profiteering and how the hopes of a better tomorrow are thwarted by others who want to exploit people for all kinds of reasons and enjoy geti8ng away with it.  It reminds us that it is up to us to make the change and it can start so simply with one man who is correct in his ideas and applies them.


The great cast also includes Edward Fox, Sir John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Martin Sheen, John Mills, Ian Bannen, Günther Maria Halmer, Saeed Jaffrey, Nigel Hawthorne, Geraldine James, a then-unknown Daniel Day Lewis, Shane Rimmer and Candice Bergen.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot in real anamorphic Panavision by cinematographers Billy Williams & Ronnie Taylor (both B.S.C.) and it is the kind of film shot for a very big screen.  Besides amazing production design, costumes and make-up, the locations are terrific color is exceptional for a film from the 1980s.  The case says this is a new High Definition transfer and it looks like it, with rich colors, good detail for DVD-Video and clean new print all around.  Only some grain from older stocks give away the age.  That this looks better on DVD than most recent films shot on film or HD is embarrassing to the newer productions.


The best soundtrack for the film was the Dolby 4.1 magnetic stereo on the 70mm blow-up prints, upgraded here in Dolby Digital 5.1 for this DVD.  The attempt to do split surrounds is limited and music by Ravi Shankar and George Fenton is often what preoccupies the surrounds.  The dialogue shows the most dated fidelity, but I expect the mag stereo sounded better and along with the picture, the sound should be even more spectacular on Blu-ray.  The combination here is still very good for a film of its type and age.


Extras include ninety minutes of bonus material including a making of photo montage, seven featurettes (In Search Of Gandhi/Ben Kingsley Talks About Gandhi/Reflections On Ben/Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad/The Funeral/Shooting An Epic In India/Looking Back), two sets of mini-featurettes (Designing Gandhi - 3 mini featurettes: Building The Ashram, The Tent, Finding Train and From The Director's Chair - 2 mini featurettes: On Casting, On Music) and four vintage newsreels.  Now that’s the way to do a special edition!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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