NEW ON DVDAll Night LongInterview With A Murderer Day Of The Jackal, TheHousesitterHacksaw RidgePawnoAuthor: The JT LeRoy StoryMahanaLight Between Oceans, The Cafe SocietyGirl On The Train, The Captain FantasticDavid Brent: Life On The RoadSing Street EqualsElvis & Nixon Where To Invade Next
GandhiUnited Kingdom/India 1982
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Running time 191 minutes
Ben Kingsley deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi in Richard Attenborough’s biopic of the iconic Indian leader. Kingsley (real name Krishna Bhanji) launched an impressive career but in Attenborough's the story plays like a reboot of George Steven’s 1965 film The Greatest Story Ever Told only with Gandhi replacing Christ and the British taking the place of the Romans.
Although in its day it was critically lauded it is a film that like its predecessor impressed more because of its big budget production values (it picked up the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars) and reverential playing to the myth rather than any critical insight or dramatic nuance. Now that Gandhi is very much a distant figure (overtaken by Nelson Mandela in the spiritual pin-up stakes) and big budget films are a dime a dozen, its sentimental tendentiousness is more apparent.
Following Gandhi’s story from his days as a young lawyer in South Africa in the mid-1890s to his assassination by a Muslim extremist shortly after India gained independence from the British empire in 1947it is a thoroughgoing account of his political rather than private life (his wife barely gets a look in beyond devoted help-mate).
Somewhat annoyingly the script keeps inserting Anglo-American characters into the narrative – a clergyman (Ian Charleson), an English female devotee (Geraldine James), an American photographer (Candice Bergen) - no doubt to broaden audience appeal but adding nothing of interest whilst the quietly significant smiles of noble people oh-so-modestly making history is considerably overdone. On the upside Attenborough calls on a lot of his colleagues from his acting days like John Mills and Trevor Howard to play the British ruling class types who are portrayed with suitable public-school snootiness.