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Richard Attenborough's Academy Award-winning epic follows the extraordinary life of Mahatma Gandhi (played by Ben Kingsley), from his beginnings as a young Indian lawyer to his triumph as a revolutionary - whose philosophy of non-violent protest helped gain India its independence. The film won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Gandhi is a great subject, but is Gandhi a great film? Undoubtedly it is, not least because it is one of the last old-school epics ever made, a glorious visual treat featuring tens of thousands of extras (real people, not digital effects) and sumptuous Panavision cinematography. But a true epic is about more than just widescreen photography, it concerns itself with noble subjects too, and the life story of Mahatma Gandhi is one of the noblest of all. Both the man and the film have profound things to say about the meaning of freedom and racial harmony, as well as how to achieve them. Ben Kingsley, in his first major screen role, bears the heavy responsibility of the central performance and carries it off magnificently; without his magnetic and utterly convincing portrayal the film would founder in the very first scene. Sir Richard Attenborough surrounds his main character with a cast of distinguished thespians (Trevor Howard, John Mills, John Gielgud and Martin Sheen, to name but four), none of whom do anything but provide the most sympathetic support. John Briley's literate screenplay achieves the almost impossible task of distilling the bewildering complexities of Anglo-Indian politics. Attenborough's treatment is openly reverential, but, given the saint-like character of his subject, it's hard to see how it could have been anything else. He doesn't flinch from the implication that the Mahatma was naïve to expect a unified India, for example, but instead lets Gandhi's actions speak for themselves. The outstanding achievement of this labour of love is that it tells the story of an avowed pacifist who never raised a hand in anger, of a man who never held high office, of a man who shied away from publicity, and turns it into three hours of utterly mesmerising cinema.
On the DVD: The anamorphic (16:9) picture of the original 2.35:1 image has a certain softness to it that may reflect the age of the print, but somehow seems entirely in keeping with the subject . Sound is Dolby 5.1. The extras are fairly brief, but worthwhile: original newsreel footage of Gandhi includes an astonishingly patronising British news account of his visit to England; in a recent interview, Ben Kinglsey chats enthusiastically about the film and the difficulties he experienced bringing the character to life. The dull "making-of" feature is simply a montage of stills. --Mark Walker
DVD Special Features
The making of "Gandhi" photo montage
The words of Mahatma Gandhi featurette
Ben Kingsley talks about Mahatma Gandhi
Original newsreel footage
Cast and crew filmographies
2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, formatted for 16:9 TVs
English Dolby Digital 5.1
German, French language options
Subtitles: English, German, French, Icelandic, Hindi, Hebrew, Dutch, Turkish, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Arabic
Top Customer Reviews
I do not understand how that reviewer could detect "little difference" between the blu-ray and DVD versions. Upscaling cannot produce detail which is not in the video signal, only interpolate to make the picture smoother.
Ghandi benefits from high definition detail in a variety of types of scene:
1) Close-ups of actors faces when delivering great performances. This movie is an epic and was a phenomenon in its time. Its 8 oscars are an indication that it wasn't just because of its historical importance - there are some great performances. High definition really brings this to life: you see every strand of hair and skin pore. The eyes and muscle tone in the face make performances utterly engaging. For example, the tension in the debriefing scene with Edward Fox after the massacre is positively palpable.
2) Wide vistas (sumptuous, colonial interiors and sweeping, panoramic exteriors) with characters in the distance. Blu-ray enables you to see the actors' performance while on DVD you just know they are there and hear them talking.
3) Complex scenes, such as the opening funeral with a crowd of 400,000 people (how do you upscale that from 720x480?), lavishly ornate colonial interiors and exteriors, and lush Indian landscapes and panoramas.
I was concerned about the age of the film. The opening scene was grainy and my heart sank. However, it was shot in low-light and there's only a handful of shots in the whole 3-hour epic that suffer in this way, a record which is substantially better than films many years younger than Ghandi.Read more ›
Shot largely on four Indian locations, Richard Attenborough's nine-time Oscar-winning biography of Gandhi is a sweeping epic that takes the viewer back to Britain's colonial past, covering all major events of Gandhi's political career from its beginnings in South Africa to the March to the Sea and India's independence, and contrasting the luxurious lifestyle of the foreign rulers with the poverty of those they governed; that India which, as Gandhi soon realized, not only the British didn't understand, but whose population also could not have cared less about the activities of the Indian Congress Party, at the time little more than a group of well-to-do city dwellers mentally and socially almost as far removed from the rest of their country as the British.Read more ›
The film itself is brilliantly shot and technically flawless, even where the minor creative hand of the director is obvious (the judge Trevor Howard standing in deference to the prisoner, for instance). 20 years in the making, the ensemble of the greatest British and Indian stage actors itself is worth every penny. I wonder how they must have felt working alongside so much greatness and talent..
Watching it again as an adult working in policy and politics, I was almost moved to request Amazon editors to retract my review of Bill Clinton's autobiography as that of the consummate politician. Gandhi was the original politician - complete with a set of unquestionable ideals in truth, violence, women's rights and secularism, a superb delivery, a populist touch and a deep understanding of (and to a large extent, as seen in his many fasts-unto-death, exploitation of) his emotional power over the hoi polloi.
This DVD however did disappoint me in some ways. Some brilliant shots with enormous symbolism have suffered the editor's scissors. E.g. the shot where Gandhi lets float his loincloth to let a poor woman cover her body, shots of the funeral. I remembered them vividly from my childhood and was a tad disappointed.. The newsreel and an original talkie interview are interesting though. Also some dialogue is ironically more effective in the Hindi-dubbing as some viewers might know.
All in all I give it 4 stars for the small disappointments mentioned.. However buy it - it is the only true epic of the 20th century.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A film about a time in history that I lived in and a film with strong emotions, superbly written and acted as near to the real thing as anyone could ever have got..... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Iornside
Watched this again after first seeing it in the eighties and really enjoyed it. A remarkable story about a remarkable man who freed India from the pompous british but so sad that... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mr R.