Zeitgeist Video // Unrated // $29.99 // April 15, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted June 4, 2003
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Movie: The movie Earth is a love story set in wartorn India during 1947. The movie starts off just before the British leave India, having ruled it for 250 or so years. The country has three religious factions; Muslims, Hindus and Shikhs, that barely tolerate one another. While all the jockeying for power is going on in the big world, Director Deepa Mehta shows a more intimate look at the events as seen through the eyes of a young eight year old crippled girl.

The girl, Lenny, is cared for by a beautiful nanny, Shanta, who is sought after by several men who appreciate her beauty and personality. The men are friends of a sort but always poke fun at one another and only Shanta can prevent their political and religious talk from turning sour. As the movie progresses, two of the men become front runners for Shanta's affection and eventually she chooses one of them. As this friendly competition continues, the political strife turns worse and mobs of roving people threaten to destroy everything.

Well, the director wisely chooses to avoid spending too much time overtly discussing the sweeping political events, but still manages to give the viewer the overall picture. On top of that, she brings home the tragic events that turn friends into bitter enemies without getting too far ahead of the story. This is accomplished by a fine cast that play their roles in a believable fashion, enough so that I accepted them as the real deal.

Much of the movie is revealed to us through Lenny's childish eyes and that helps keep it in focus. A young girl of eight years certainly doesn't understand the nuances of politics, religious differences and the betrayals adults are all too knowledgeable of and this helps keep the basic story grounded. Further, it lends humor to what would otherwise be a deeply depressing movie, given the eventual outcome (over a million people died during the events that transpired and to this day the people of both India and Pakistan, which was created by the British as they left India, are enemies).

I also found it interesting that Lenny's family is part of a neutral group, which comes into play more than once with regard to the director's vision. Even as each religious group kills and maims one another, they leave the relatively well off family alone. I'd have thought they'd resent the wealth of the family but it's explained that the group they belong to has a special status-I'd like to know more about it to be honest.

This movie being made in the Indian equivalent of Hollywood, affectionately referred to as Bollywood, it had some musical sequences that added some relief to the movie as well. The usually happy ending of a culture clash movie is not going to happen here and you see it building as the movie progresses. That it doesn't just "happen" all at once makes the movie more enjoyable than what you'd expect from a domestic release (on average)

Those looking for a detailed account of what happened when the British left and divided India into two countries may well be left dissatisfied but the story is more moving as told and that makes this a winner in my book. Perhaps I'll read the book this was based on, Cracking India, as the movie definitely left me wanting more yet was an entertaining account of man's inhumanity to man in terms of why we should try and tolerate one another in these perilous times.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio Anamorphic Widescreen. The colors were too dark much of the time and the print suffered from grain at times. It was also not as crisp and clear as I'd have liked. You'll know right away that it was a lower budget movie made elsewhere and it's a testament to the quality of the movie itself that you probably won't care much.

Sound: The audio was presented in Dolby Digital stereo. The vocals were generally clear and the music well presented. Much of the audio was in the various languages-Hindi, Urdu, Parsee and Punjabi with a mixing of English as well. There are optional English subtitles as well. The bass was a bit deep at times, which slightly distorted the sound but that was not usually the case.

Extras: There was a trailer for the movie, a paper insert, a section on New Yorker Video and it's mission as well as lots of trailers from their other releases.

Final Thoughts: I liked the movie and the many small touches that the director put in to make it a complex, yet enjoyable film. I'm sure someone with a better background in the events behind the times the movie was set in would find it even better. The acting, the script and direction all combined to elevate this release above the typical Bollywood movie. As such, I'm rating it as Recommended but I almost lean towards giving it a higher rating.

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