Heat And Dust [DVD]
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In this Merchant-Ivory production, the story switches between past and present as Anne (Julie Christie), an Englishwoman living in India, attempts to discover the nature of the scandal that surrounded her great-aunt (Greta Scacchi) sixty years before. The two women's lives begin to mirror each other as Anne's search through the past intensifies.
Director James Ivory's Heat and Dust tells two parallel stories set in India, one in the present and the other in the days of British rule. In 1920s India, a young English bride, Olivia (Greta Scacchi), finds herself in a passionate, forbidden affair with the local Nawab (Shashi Kapoor). In the second story, Olivia's great niece, Anne (Julie Christie), travels to India and there learns of her great aunt's affair with the Nawab, her subsequent pregnancy, and her exile from the British community. Anne's life begins to roughly imitate that of Olivia's when she has an affair with a local Indian administrator (Zakir Hussain) and also becomes pregnant. Merchant Ivory screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based the film's screenplay on her own acclaimed novel of the same name. Jhabvala was raised in England but after meeting her husband, an Indian architect, moved to India, where she lived for 24 years. Her screenplays Autobiography of a Princess, Hullabaloo over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures, and Heat and Dust reflect her own experiences as a British citizen living in a foreign land. At the time the film was released in 1983, Heat and Dust was Merchant Ivory's biggest commercial success.
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However, the film is also available as a part of "The Merchant Ivory Collection" and that DVD IS remastered and looks just fine. By all means go with that one.
One story is that of Olivia (Greta Scacchi), the young and beautiful wife of Douglas Rivers (Christopher Casenove), a minor district official in colonial India. The film tells of her arrival in India, newly wed and in love with her husband, her subsequent boredom with the staid, British Colonial community, and her blossoming infatuation with the Nawab (Shashi Kapoor), a very handsome and charming, local Indian prince. It is her romance with the Nawab that is to result in a life changing action, one that would forever cause a permanent rift with Douglas, changing her life forever.
The second story is that of Anne (Julie Christie), a beautiful and independent woman, a descendant of Olivia's sister. Nearly sixty years after Olivia's transgression, fascinated by the story of the deceased Olivia, Anne goes to India, visiting those locations where Olivia had lived and those which would have been a part of her existence at the time. As did Olivia, she falls under India's spell. As did Olivia, she, too, has an Anglo-Indian love affair. Hers is with her landlord, Inder Lal (Zakir Hussain). Anne's life essentially picks up where the thread of Olivia's life left off, giving the reader a powerful sense of de-ja vu, bringing reincarnation to mind.
This film is a beguiling story of two women from two different generations who come under the spell of India. It is is evocative of British colonial India, as well as of India of the early nineteen eighties. During both eras, Anglo-Indian relations are pivotal to the budding romances, and the film is evocative of the rythyms of Indian life in all its richness and tumultuousness, as well as its lingering poverty and superstitions. Redolent of a time gone by, it is also an interesting dichotomy of the good and bad in both cultures, Anglo and Indian, and the influence that both cultures have on these two women, who are so different, yet so alike.
Julie Christie is perfect as the thoroughly modern, beautiful, free thinking, young woman who retraces her ancestor's footsteps. Greta Scacchi, in her introductory film role, is luminous as the lovely Olivia, a woman who did not let prejudice and narrow mindedness blind her to the charms of India, its people, and its culture. Shashi Kapoor is perfectly cast as the handsome Indian Prince, whose veneer of culture and sophistication belies an injured pride, chafing under British colonialism. While the role of Inder Lal is well played by Zakir Hussain, there does not appear to be much chemistry between him and Julie Christie, in contrast to the smoldering chemistry there is between Scacchi and Kapoor. The seeming lack of chmistry btween Hussain and Christie is the one weakness in this film.
The film, one of the earlier Merchant Ivory productions, is beautifully shot. Gorgeous period costumes contribute to the sense of a time gone by. While the story bounces along between the past and the present, it is effectively done, as one sees the transformation of the past to its present. This is a film that will appeal to those who love period dramas, as well as those who simply love a good, entertaining story. It is a film well worth having in one's collection.
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when a lot of english people there