A Passage to India is transferred into 1080P/AVC MPEG-4 and is presented in a 1.66:1 framed format. It's an odd ratio as on a widescreen TV you will find black bars down either side of the picture but thankfully the ratio does provide for an almost fill of the screen.
As for the video quality itself Sony Pictures have really done themselves proud on this one. The colours, the richness of detail and textures are prevalent from the very first scenes. Everything is presented with assured integrity, the solidness of blacks and offsetting contrasts are stunning. Of course it was directed by a master and the composition of shots, the landscapes and the acting are nothing short of anything other than excellence.
There is a sharpness to the image that propels the image into 3-dimensionality on numerous occasions and I'm sure you'll be thrilled. I was delighted that a film of this age can be made to look as good as this. It has undergone digital restoration but without the over zealous use of edge enhancement. The digital sharpening is evident but you'd be hard pushed to complain about it. There is a fine filmic grain to the picture which also adds immensely to the cinematic grandeur of the movie itself. You will not be disappointed with the video quality of this disc, it's excellent.
The audio comes in the guise of a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack and I was actually a little taken aback by it. For a film of both its style and age I wasn't expecting much surround channel activity but you certainly do get some here. The rears can be filled with strange effects, from the bands playing the national anthem to the echoes in the Marabar caves. The award winning score accompanies the film at every opportunity and leaves you uplifted with a sense of joy.
The style of the mix is certainly not unwelcome but I was expecting this to be a front sound space dialogue centric affair. Speaking of which, the dialogue does tend to edge on the tinnier side of things. However, it's not gratingly so and dependent on your set up you may feel that it is fine. Personally I wish it had been a bit more balanced and smoothed. Low end enthusiasts also need not apply here.
It would be true to say that the same effort hasn't gone into the soundmix as has clearly gone into the video aspects of this movie. For the same token though the audio is exactly what you would expect of a movie like this.
Most of the extras are presented in HD with some of the older material being in 4:3 SD format.
Commentary with Producer Richard Goodwin - Richard Goodwin is certainly a fellow who draws his words with measure. The commentary does as a result become rather too slow and as you progress further into the film the pauses between the scenes become increasingly so. He also begins to fall into the trap of simply pointing out the literal of what is happening onscreen. Nevertheless, once you get into his style it's worth sticking with.
Beyond the Passage: Picture-in-graphics track - A pretty good pop up feature this one. The screen breaks up into segments, the film playing in one whilst facts and trivia appear in another. This is not continuous and it only happens at the predetermined points of the movie. Still, it is quite frequent and you can pick up a bit of knowledge along the way. Having this option selected at the same time as the commentary makes for quite a good experience.
Reflections of David Lean - (8mins 17secs) - Presented in 4:3 format this is taken from VT footage of an interview with David Lean himself. This is essential viewing and you simply have to watch this to appreciate the man and his thoughts.
E.M. Forster: profile of an author - (6mins 54secs) - Peter Jones of Kings College Cambridge simply talks about the writer, his life and his works. Overall it's a very informative and interesting biography of the writer.
An epic takes shape - (10mins 55secs) - The cast and crew re-collect the experience of working with David Lean and what it took to make the movie. Most of it is led by Richard Goodwin and it's once again very measured and informative.
An Indian affair - (13mins 38secs) - This really follows on from the preceding extra and the crew talk about India itself. What the attractions of this country are and how they went about trying to recreate the feel of the British Raj.
Only connect : A vision of India - (10mins 34secs) - Cast and crew discuss the movie once again but matters are a little more intimate here. A lot of recollection in the way David Lean used to do things interspersed with scenes from the movie. The re-creation of India within the Shepperton studios as well as the cultural reaction to this movie are discussed.
Casting a classic - (11mins 22secs) - As you would expect the cast talk about how they were approached by David Lean to ask to play their parts in the film. This is all pretty straightforward interview stuff really but sadly both Judy Davis and Victor Bannerjee are missing. A highlight here is when Nigel Havers gives his thoughts on Judy Davis. Hmmm I don't think they got on whilst making this movie.
David Lean : Shooting with the Master - (13mins 23secs) - The cast talk about their relationship with David Lean and his style of direction. It's interesting to note that his style was very much from an editorial perspective. He also comes across as a man who knew his own mind and was set in his ways. Who are we to argue? He certainly knew his stuff and delivered it impeccably.
Blu-ray is High Definition - (30secs) - A trailer for the Sony format.
The David Lean Collection - (1mins 56secs) - Promo trailer for Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and of course A Passage to India.
From the introduction to an Indian way of life to the oasis of the British Raj within it, A Passage to India hustles and bustles with a complete vibrancy. David Lean takes E.M. Forster's novel and tells the turn of the story in very much his hallmark style. In part it's down to the quality of the novel but the director really does take the credit for bringing it all to life. Ok, so it's arguably not in the league of Lawrence of Arabia or Bridge on the River Kwai but it's certainly no lesser a class to them.
It is also truly wonderful that they can bring classic movies like this right up to speed with the latest that the format has to offer. The video aspects of the film are excellent and Sony Pictures brings you a fantastic high definition re-incarnation of this film. It's one to be proud of for sure and I only wish that the audio had been equally as good. The included extra's make for excellent viewing and add real value to this blu-ray disc. They've been thoughtfully put together and there is plenty of intelligent comment about the film from both the cast and senior crew. Bring the whole package together and this classic movie becomes a recommended purchase.
So what of the film? Call me nostalgic but they just don't make them like they used to. The storyline and acting come together as a welcome respite from today's very different style of film-making. It's David Lean at almost his very finest and it's a class above most. In a word it's wonderful and it weaves 1920's British Colonial rule in India with all the idiosyncrasies that ever existed between the two cultures in a way that only he could ever portray.
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