A Call to Right

History happens in cycles. Partway through Gandhi, India’s protesters, infuriated by British rule, burn down a police station, this after they marched calling for a peaceful end. Inevitably, there’s violence to any cause, and yet few are so obviously justified as civil rights.

Gandhi doesn’t need a central villain. Select shots of British politicians sniveling toward the camera when told of India’s disobedience; marriage isn’t considered legal; a general commands troops to fire on civilians during a sit-in meeting; evil, pure and concentrated. But in Gandhi, villainy is greater than any character. It’s stinging bigotry, demeaning racism, and authoritarian, British egotism. There’s no other side with laws so clearly, demonstrably unjust.

Today packaged with Lawrence of Arabia, the two films complement each other despite 20 years separating the productions. Lawrence details one man uniting Arab tribes, Gandhi one man drawing a divisive nation together under one banner – and both doing so against British wishes, concurrently in history.

Gandhi, selective as it might be, doesn’t lose purpose in dramatizing events

Even at three hours, Gandhi isn’t a film telling anymore than clipped history. Decades slip past as this story moves, filled with two wars, multiple leaders, and Ben Kingsley’s saintly depiction of an astonishingly patient, wise, thoughtful man. If Gandhi misses things or broadly extrapolates themes, the cost isn’t to the message – Gandhi’s sole, consistent focus made him an enviable idealist with no great want for power, just right. Anyone is so capable when they choose to be.

Although somewhat typical in filmmaking style, the epic quality prevails. Scale adds visible gravitas, Kingsley always in the lead, marching people toward equality and individuality away from oppressive British rule. As World War II dawns, the British fight, Gandhi aware of Hitler’s curse when speaking to a journalist who asks if peaceful protest might conquer Germany. His cautious words indirectly state it already happened because British no longer card or fingerprint Indians as Hitler did for Jews; it merely took time.

On a bus, Gandhi passes people living in poverty. A woman breast feeds her baby in a muddy alleyway. People beg. Malnourished farmers starve when British stop buying crops. Those images exist everyday, yet they do not rally anyone to solve inequality. It takes a moment – or moments – to show or prove servitude to the rich. That’s what Gandhi did, because rather than fight, he turned his people into unquestionable victims. The film then, selective as it might be, doesn’t lose purpose in dramatizing events. Rather, corralling a history evident in each march, each protest, and each injustice.

Video

Marvelous 4K video stretches over two discs, a little over 90-minutes on each. That’s giving Gandhi extensive space to breathe, relaxing the 35mm grain into a natural form, untouched by compression. It’s glorious.

A bold HDR pass hits every needed mark, accentuating sun, reflecting from white robes, and emboldening dyed dress. Color saturation settles into a comfortable high point, beautifully rendered and rich. Primaries prop up scenes set in large crowds, variety in the cinematography exceptional, given proper due by this expanded range. Black levels land their deepest moments too.

Sensational sharpness creates the greatest difference between the UHD and previous formats. Definition swells thanks to pinpoint facial texture, and outright dazzling wide shots. It’s partly impressive thanks to scaled crowds, but also the few substantial images from cities or government buildings. Too often it’s stated UHD is more than resolution – and that’s not untrue – but such a statement also dismisses what higher resolution can do. Gandhi is an example.

Audio

Remastered for Dolby Atmos, this obviously isn’t a movie covered in action, although some LFE slips in from a tank engine, fire, and thunder. Through the score, range extends wide.

Natural surround use fills each channel, rushing in ambiance outdoors, and in crowds, the swell reaches throughout the soundstage. Height channels work too, sending birds chirping as they fly by and those same audiences as they clap and cheer.

Firm fidelity lost little over (nearly) 40 years. Only a few lines wane in clarity or precision.

Extras

The same as the previous Blu-ray release, including a Richard Attenborough commentary (and an optional intro too), plus a historical picture-in-picture track on disc one.

Disc two begins with interviews, Ben Kingsley up first and running 19-minutes. Attenborough discusses music and casting in separate clips. In Search of Gandhi lasts nine minutes as Attenborough chats about his experiences learning about Gandhi. At 18-minutes, the retrospective involves producers and others discussing the finished film.

An Englishwoman Abroad explores Geraldine James’ character. Attenborough discusses Kingsley’s casting for nine minutes, followed by a look at the shoot in India for 17-minutes. Three featurettes explore the design of key scenes, and 13-minutes peek at the funeral opening. Gandhi’s words feature in a gallery, and newsreel footage of Gandhi run 10-minutes. A photo montage with behind-the-scenes images is the finale.

Gandhi
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Still inspiring, Gandhi’s source images stem from the early 1900s, yet remain powerful as people continue seeking equality.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 72 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: