Starring: Sir Ben Kingsley, Sir John Gielgud, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen
Directed by: Richard Attenborough
Studio: Columbia Pictures 17437
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, color
Audio: DD 5.1, DD 2.0, English; Dolby Surround, Portuguese; Spanish
Subtitles: English, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish
Music: Ravi Shankar, George Fenton
Extras: Introduction to the film by Richard Attenborough, Director’s commentary during feature, Vintage Newsreel footage, Sir Ben Kingsley talks about Gandhi interview, 9 short featurettes: In Search of Gandhi, Reflections on Ben, Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad, The Funeral, Looking Back, Shooting an Epic in India, Designing Gandhi, From the Director’s Chair, The Words of Mahatma Gandhi
Length of feature: 191 minutes
Coming out at the time of the latest Academy Awards, this lavish reissue of Attenborough’s “Gandhi” reminds us that the epic about the little brown man in the loincloth and shawl who changed the world forever won eight Oscars at the 1982 ceremonies, including Best Picture. Attenborough reveals in his informative commentary that he was sure E.T. would get that particular Oscar at least, as he felt it a more successful and unique all-around cinematic experience.
Well, he was wrong. Gandhi surprised everyone who worked on it with its excellent reception worldwide, especially after Attenborough had to struggle with independent financing, since Hollywood didn’t think there would be much public interest in a film about Gandhi. The masterpiece brought to millions of people worldwide this simple man’s views about nonviolence being the key to achieving human rights for various groups. Gandhi refused to accept the terrible conditions wrought by religious and racial strife and pioneered an entirely new approach that captivated millions of people and is continuing to offer an alternate way to peace and understanding today.
Kingsley created one of the finest characterizations on film in his role, but all the actors in the film are superb. The crowd scenes are truly memorable, and in the commentary track it is pointed out that this was before cgi creation of huge crowds on the screen out of a handful of people. For Gandhi’s funeral, which both opens and closes the film most effectively, some actual long shots from the 1948 funeral are used, because it was quite impossible to assemble the over 400,000 people in attendance – even in India. Fake newsreels were shot with Kingsley appearing as Gandhi in them and the film distressed and scratched to look like historic footage. The masterful script, which went thru many revisions, portrays the simple yet stirring speeches of Gandhi and holds one’s interest even though much of it is of the talking heads genre. Kingsley studied excepts of Gandhi’s speeches to perfectly mimic his accent and delivery.
The varied colors and the exotic music of India are a prominent part of the film. The transfer is of high resolution for a standard DVD and even the darker scenes have great detail in the shadow areas. The life of this extraordinary man is so compelling and involving that one wonders that there was any question beforehand of whether audiences would be interested or not. Even if you saw this back in the early 80s, it is well worth it to see it again in this superb in-depth edition.
– John Sunier