Tonight, the Arte channel is broadcasting The road to IndiaBritish director David Lean’s final film (lawrence of arabia). Should we watch this nearly three-hour fresco?
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British director nominated eleven times at the Oscars during his long career (and awarded twice), David Lean is certainly the filmmaker of great frescoes and lyricism on the big screen. We owe him in particular the classics Doctor Zhivago (film long banned in Russia), The River Kwai Bridge and lawrence of arabia and the lesser known but nonetheless sublime The captain’s daughter. When he embarked on the adaptation of the eponymous novel by EM Forster (to whom we owe in particular the book that inspired Return to Howard’s End), the director has not filmed anything for 14 years. He is already 76 years old and not really at his peak anymore. As a result, filming is not easy. There is India, the thousands of extras, the elephants, the heat… But also complicated relationships with Judy Davisactress who holds the main role, and finds that Lean no longer has the talent of her younger years (she won her only nomination for the Oscar for best actress of her career, but hey…).
The road to Indiathis evening on Arte, follows the journey of Adela Quested (Judy Davis), a young woman, who travels to India in the company of Mrs. Moore, to find her future husband, a Crown magistrate in the city of Chandrapore. As she gets off the liner, she discovers, curious and frightened at the same time, life in colonial India. Despite the clash of cultures, she is immediately interested in these traditions that she does not know. She sympathizes in particular with the kind doctor Aziz. The latter proposes one day to Adela and Mrs. Moore to take them to visit the fabulous caves of Marabar. There, because of the heat, Mrs. Moore feels ill and gives up the expedition. Adela continues. Until the moment when in a mysterious cave, she is panicked because of the echo which carries cries and noises from one end of the place to the other), she flees and accuses Doctor Aziz of raped her…
A remarkable journey
Let’s say it straight away, The road to India is not a perfect movie. There is this character of Godbole, the old Brahman, interpreted by the very British Alec Guinness. Today, it’s almost comical. But beware ! Even imperfect, the film is magnificent. Far from the glamorous lyricism one might expect on such a subject, The road to India is a realistic and unsettling, almost harrowing dive into a shimmering new world. How is it David Lean, the images are magnificent, but they don’t play with postcard exoticism. What really interests David Lean is the road that Aziz and Adela each take to assert themselves. Their path is strewn with pitfalls. But he is fascinating. And follows with great pleasure.