Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

December 31, 2013 at 2:59pm

Check This Out: "Gandhi" (1982)

"Gandhi," the epic biography of the man who led India's struggle for independence, was voted best film of 1982 by the New York Film Critics Circle.

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Every Tuesday, "Check This Out" recommends movies available at your friendly local library. So you can satisfy your next film fix at the place with the books.

"Drama is life with the dull bits left out," the wise Hitchcock tells us. So what excitement could one possibly find in a three-hour-plus film of a man who does nothing? He doesn't fight back when others bully and beat him up, he lets himself get thrown into prison multiple times without a word of complaint and sometimes he even refuses to eat. But Gandhi (and the 1982 film of the same name) proved to the world that rejecting the status quo packs plenty of drama, and, against all odds, quiet inaction can still bring down empires and inspire millions.

Winner of the Oscar for Best Picture, Gandhi tells the story of one man on a grand scale, and remains one of cinema's last old-fashioned epics before the assist (or crutch, some would argue) of computer-generated imagery. (Interestingly, director Richard Attenborough would usher in moviemaking's digital age indirectly a decade later with Jurassic Park, playing that polite British creator of deadly dinos.) The film achieves its most dazzling effect with nothing more than makeup and the performance of Sir Ben Kingsley, who seamlessly transforms from dark-haired, dark-suited lawyer to white-haired, white-robed global revolutionary.

Early in life, Gandhi gets thrown off a train in India for not moving back to third class, the designated section for people of his heritage. From that incident is born a nearly 50-year fight to secure his nation's independence from the British Empire. Yet he doesn't spur his countrymen to wage war with weapons or bloodshed, but quite the opposite, by using passive resistance. The film does a fine job exploring how this quiet riot ripples out across the continent, all the way to England's highest government leaders, whose initial arrogance towards this willful "little brown man" gets cut down to confusion, frustration, and finally defeat.

Like other powerful sagas, Gandhi packs thousands of extras and crosses multiple eras and landscapes, yet never loses sight of telling the very personal story of an individual who dared to defy. With its anti-imperialist message and call for religious equality, history itself suddenly seems not this buried and forgotten thing, but a voice crying to be heard today.

LINK: The first-ever filmed interview with Gandhi

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