A Passage to India, director David Lean's final film (for which he also received editing credit), breaks no new ground cinematically, but remains an exquisitely assembled harkback to such earlier Lean epics as Doctor Zhivago and Ryan's Daughter. Based on the novel by E. M. Forster, the film is set in colonial India in 1924. Adela Quested (Judy Davis), a sheltered, well-educated British woman, arrives in the town of Chandrapore, where she hopes to experience "the real India". Here she meets and befriends Dr. Aziz (Victor Banerjee), who, despite longstanding racial and social taboos, moves with relative ease and freedom amongst highborn British circles. Feeling comfortable with Adela, Aziz invites her to accompany him on a visit to the Marabar caves. Adela has previously exhibited bizarre, almost mystical behavior during other ventures into the Indian wilderness: this time, she emerges from the caves showing signs of injury and ill usage. To Aziz' horror, he is accused by Adela of raping her. Typically, the British ruling class rallies to Adela's defense, virtually convicting Aziz before the trial ever begins. Though he is eventually acquitted due to lack of evidence (in fact, director Lean never shows us what really happened), Aziz is ruined in the eyes of both the British and his own people-as is Adela. Woven into these proceedings is a subplot involving Adela's elderly travelling companion Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft), who through a series of plot twists too complex to describe here becomes a heroine of the Indian Independence movement. A Passage to India was nominated for several Academy Awards, scoring wins in the categories of Best Supporting Actress (Peggy Ashcroft) and Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre). A theatrical version of A Passage to India, written by Santha Rama Rau, was previously adapted for television by the BBC in the mid-1970s.
by Hal Erickson synopsis