June 2, 2009

A Passage to India (1984)

It's been raining so I'm in one of those languid, far-away moods today. And my mind turns once again to early turn-of-the century sentiment. So I'm going to post about A Passage to India. This book, along with A Room With a View, are two of my favorites from my teenage years. I saw the film some 15 years ago but I recently gave it a second viewing and was just blown away by Judy Davis' performance. I wasn't old enough to appreciate it the first time around, but now that I'm older and a little more world-weary, I can finally begin to truly relate to the emotional journey that her character undertakes.

We start off with a young Adela, sheltered and naive, who travels from England to India to meet up with her long-time suitor and soon-to-be fiancé who is stationed there as a colonial magistrate. She has never been out of the country and is basically going through all this trouble just to get married. (loving: her tweed coat, dark hat, and leather gloves)


She is traveling with the elderly Mrs. Moore, her good friend and her fiancé's mother. (loving: her simple linen blouse, with black brooch and straw hat)


She arrives jaded and bewildered, but undaunted and eagerly curious to get to know her new surroundings. (loving: the large trunk in the right-hand corner that allows clothes to be hung inside instead of folded)


She shares her soon-to-be Mother-in-law's enthusiasm for trying to learn about "the real India." This is not the popular attitude among the rest of the English colonialists, who view the Indians as savages that need to be tamed, trained, and put to good use. Instead of keeping a watchful distance from the "natives," Adela and Mrs. Moore are more receptive and willing to learn from and communicate with them.


(loving: her simple white cotton blouses and her variety of brooches. And her hats, especially the 2nd one with the embroidered lace wrap-around)



(loving: how she goes off on her own to explore her surroundings without a male chaperone. And also, her darling bicycle.) You can find similar ones from Pashley, the quintessential English company that was founded in 1926 (which is around the same period as this story).


Adela eventually meets a Muslim Indian doctor named Aziz, through Mrs. Moore (remember, her future mother-in-law) and Mr. Fielding (Fielding is the appointed headmaster of the city's little government-run college for Indians). They all get together for a "tea party" thrown by Mr. Fielding. Dr. Aziz is passionately in awe of his English friends and tries desperately to ingratiate himself into their favor, even going as far as to arrange an extravagant trip to the nearby Marabar Caves.



They use an elephant for part of their journey to the Marabar Caves. I absolutely love the tradition of painting the elephant's trunk (don't worry, the paint is washable). I've seen this done in other films as well as in real life - especially for weddings and other similarly elaborate celebrations - it's really beautiful to behold in person.




But then - something happens while they're at the caves. I won't give it away for those of you who haven't read the book or seen the film so we'll just leave it at there for now.

below: loving her gray hat and gloves combo. the dress is too shapeless for my body-type though.


This film manages to explore the themes of repression, illusion, racism, tolerance, forgiveness, self-discovery and justice all together in an unforgettable and visually breathtaking masterpiece. Why, just look at some of these amazing long-shots of the Indian landscape. They seem like they're out of a dream:




I wanted to keep the images below separate from my above description of the film because they didn't fit well into the sequence of events. I show these only to highlight some of the other costumes. Because when there is a pith helmet, there is a need for a screencap!


The epitome of English elitism:


Below is a gorgeous custard colored blouse worn by Adela back in her house in England. Click on the image for a better view of the beautiful extended collar that drops down like a scarf or a tie. (I feel like there should be an official term to describe this type of collar but I don't know what it is). Also, notice how it's held together by a thin clip-brooch. I absolutely love this blouse and wish I had a pattern of it so I could get one made just like it!


And here are some obligatory images of the interior of the colonialists' abodes in India. Sparse but luxurious in comparison to the humble dwellings of the natives. It's also interesting to note that they took great pains to incorporate as much of their traditional English furnishings as possible in their houses. This further underscores their desire to keep themselves separate from the Indians.




We only see Indian design incorporated in the house of Mr. Fielding - appropriate because he was the only other main character who actually made the effort to befriend the locals.

loving: the detail in the arches that frame the veranda:




I don't feel as awkward about my obsession with interior design & architecture anymore -- I have a constant, unfulfilled commentary on my surroundings going on inside my head, that mustn't hit the air! But yours hits the web, and I feel benefited by it!

We lost something very expressive when we gave up hats, didn't we? I hope they come back into fashion, as a must-have, rather than an evening accessory.

I'm glad there are other people out there who share my obsession!

And yes, hats need to make a major comeback. I absolutely love them.

I love you blog..just wonderfukl

One of my favorite movies, and your perceptive design analysis has given me even more reason to watch it again!

This is absolutely Lovely blog, will be reading and watching it. I LOVE the 20's-60's style. Especially the 30's, what an elegance..and these great films...Thank you!! All is not lost after all..so many people appreciating these things : )

Post a Comment

Twitter Facebook Email GooglePlus Stumbleupon Digg More