Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Gandhi" with Ben Kingsley (1982)

I can hardly believe that I have never reviewed this remarkable film here before. I have seen it several times, always with the same shock at the cruelty of the British against a people who merely wanted to govern themselves. Coming about 150 years after the Empire had lost the American colonies, you would have thought that the British had learned something about people and their determination to be free. Just as the United States would later learn in Vietnam, when you fight in someone else’s backyard, you better have the hearts and minds of the people on your side. When you don’t; you’re just “whistling in the wind.”

In this biography of Mohandas K. Gandhi, a simple but idealistic attorney who rallied an oppressed people into standing up for their birthright, director Richard Attenborough has taken writer John Briley’s script to a cinematic height rarely achieved in today’s movies.

Of course, with a cast which includes such luminaries as Ben Kingsley; playing Gandhi; John Gielgud; as Lord Irwin; and an array of the best actors of their time; including Trevor Howard and John Mills; it would be hard to miss in this historically accurate story about the diminutive little man who became the symbol of his people using the philosophy of non-violence to accomplish the impossible.

From the 1920’s through to the granting of Independence in 1947, Mr. Gandhi faced struggles from without, as well as struggles form within. In many ways his trajectory would become the very image of Martin Luther King’s struggle for Civil Rights in the United States several decades later. In both cases the result was the tragic loss of a great leader, even as the changes they wrought through their efforts were beginning to bear fruit.

Stunningly photographed, and excellently directed, this film belongs in every serious collection of cinema. If not for its beauty as a movie itself, then as a statement about mankind and the dilemma of all peoples who struggle to be free.

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