The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Review of: Richard Attenborough's Movie, Gandhi

Review of the Movie: Gandhi (1982). Directed by Richard Attenborough, Written by John Briley. Starring Ben Kingsley. Winner (1983) Academy Award for Best Picture.
By Tim Krenz
Copyright © 2014 The Cepia Club LLC

With his movie, Gandhi, director Richard Attenborough made a popular, and profitable, modern classic. Attenborough filmed his masterpiece of story and medium on locations in Mohandas Gandhi's country of India—a land still crowded, immense, and poor in the early 1980s. He cast a largely unknown actor, Ben Kingsley, in the title role, and the actor became iconic with his character portrayal. The support cast of thousands; co-starring movie stars of three continents; the art direction, sound and film editing; and the photography—all reached a superb quality of high, and no less than, epic film. Like a great circle of inclusive space and time in the art of film-making, the movie closes where it begins. And as with timeless great tales, the audience feels no separation from the experience, but enters the circle, apart from which he or she never really exist in the greatest art of human experiences.

Gandhi's box office and Academy Award success has less to do, however, with film effects, great acting, and incredible direction, or any memory before or after the experience of viewing it. Attenborough's triumph shows, instead, the enduring reality of epic, from Homer's Iliad to now. It shows a story devoid of separation from sense and experience, and it suppresses any skeptical wariness of “dead” liturgy. Gandhi as a movie and a person moves and lives!

The movie of Gandhi as India's inspiring leader toward independence in the first half of the 20th century follows history as true as that history allows us to separate it from falsehood. As with all movies of real lives and actual events, time becomes manipulated, and the words and actions of 52 years subsume in simplified form of three and one-half hours of film. The skill of directors who take such challenges of personalities (Abel Gance and Napoleon, David Lean with Lawrence of Arabia, Steven Spielberg to Schindler's List) allow the movie to animate the dour humdrum of a local theater or a lone living room, and inspire average men and normal women to feel the uplift of hope; victories unsurpassed; and the living tragedies of fate in defeat or death. In the end of such great movies, the triumph and the helplessness become destiny, and fate mingles on film with our conscience and inner compass, if done well. Why does Gandhi force an audience to investigate meanings and souls? To seek convictions in self? And, to decide if one lives a life for vanity or a higher, better cause?

Gandhi the person worked an incredible feat in his time. The movie begins the story, when the young attorney from the British colony of India gets unceremoniously and literally tossed off a train in South Africa because of his dark skin. While still living in South Africa before his return to India as a leader of the liberation movement, Gandhi commits an act of defiance, a challenge to a race-based internal passport required by non-whites, in a colony ruled by the “peace” of white imperialism. A sickening scene develops as Gandhi burns his own and other supporters' passports. The police beat him without mercy, but show a tremble when he does not commit violence in return, but continues to toss the paper into the fire. He had found in his meek speech and humbling self-directed humor a passion and determination to resist on principle, and to make the oppressors ill by their own acts of oppression.

Gandhi in real life, as shown in the movie, lived with the contradictions inherent in every human. In such great internal struggles, let the lesson taught resound: inner discipline through struggle creates outer respect and confidence, and such attitude and determination does move mountains, and it defeats empires of oppression.

At what did Gandhi aim by such non-violent, but entirely confrontational methods? He aimed at a moral Unity of one and all, toward a forward goal in the higher, more conscientious development of a better right to rule self, rather than overlord others. Fighting oppression with violence only creates two things. It creates more oppression and more violence. The non-violent, or “civil disobedience” code of conduct, called in Hindi “satyagrahi” (loosely translated as “firmness in truth”), became a weapon of human power which thrusts its soft spear at the evil heartlessness controlling the point and trigger of an oppressor's gun. “Non-cooperation with evil is a duty,” Gandhi says in the movie, “and that British rule in India is evil.”

Gandhi, in the movie, gives a couple pointed lessons for any modern politician or political activist., Politicians at meetings almost always give speeches for each other, simply to reorder the power of oppression by replacing one oppressor with the new oppressor. In such instances of factions and partisanship, politics as a method of change can and should have no appeal, no less in the early 20th century than in the 21st century now. Second, leaders who do very little to really understand the people they lead and hope to lead end up setting themselves only as new overseers and imperialists of the property and rights of the lesser empowered. Gandhi in the script says that toil with the people, a hard toil with them in their fields and shops, becomes the only legitimate claim to represent the masses of the people.

The symbolic acts of defiance by Gandhi in his real life and in the movie possess an incredible moral courage, and that courage of his and his followers displayed (in history) some examples of supreme physical courage in the last century, in taking beatings by walking unarmed, slow, in calm rows into walls of police armed with rods. Such acts in any pursuit of truth exposes evil as evil, and overpowers the evil into retreat. Evil cannot withstand either the firmness of the truth, or the internal self-discipline of the peaceful warrior who banishes the lies by refusing to endorse it.

The foundation of a civil-resister is to provoke response, and we will continue to provoke until they respond or change the law. They are not in control. We are,” Gandhi proclaims. “That is the strength of civil resistance.”

For Gandhi, the steeling of his body to hard work, hardship, and against abuse, and even his diet, became ultimate weapons in his philosophy. From the symbolic rebellion against the salt tax, salt needed to preserve health in the climate, by India's poor making salt for themselves, to Gandhi's hunger strikes in order to shame and compel his followers to refrain from committing violence, his philosophy always embodied a personal choice to do no harm physically to others, but to sacrifice self if necessary for the higher good. As he did not want to live in a country that sinned itself by acts similar to the imperialist, a person or a nation's love for self and others demands to each their dignity, their need for empathy—giving and receiving—and the choices one can make that have consequences for good beyond logical proportion. Philosophy becomes action, and Attenborough's film brilliantly captures it.

The god bless the peacemakers such as he. . .