Heat and Dust


2h 13m 1983

Brief Synopsis

As she searches for answers to the mystery surrounding a long-ago affair between her aunt Olivia and an Indian prince, Anne becomes immersed in the local culture, the pull of the past simultaneously leading her into a clearer view of her own future.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1983
Production Company
Merchant/Ivory Productions
Distribution Company
The Cohen Media Group (CMG); Curzon Artificial Eye; The Cohen Media Group
Location
England, United Kingdom; India

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 13m

Synopsis

As she searches for answers to the mystery surrounding a long-ago affair between her aunt Olivia and an Indian prince, Anne becomes immersed in the local culture, the pull of the past simultaneously leading her into a clearer view of her own future.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1983
Production Company
Merchant/Ivory Productions
Distribution Company
The Cohen Media Group (CMG); Curzon Artificial Eye; The Cohen Media Group
Location
England, United Kingdom; India

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 13m

Articles

Heat and Dust


In the early 1980s, the entertainment media was flush with ruminations on the wane of British Colonial India, from Gandhi to A Passage To India to The Jewel in the Crown to The Far Pavilions. In the midst of this trend, producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory picked a propitious time to bring their longtime collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's generations-spanning novel to the screen as Heat and Dust (1983). Now available on DVD as part of The Criterion Collection's ongoing series of Merchant/Ivory films, the production holds up as a splendidly mounted if stately paced look at a bygone era.

As does Jhabvala's opus, the film interweaves two parallel narratives taking place sixty years apart. BBC researcher Anne (Julie Christie) develops a fascination with her family's lore concerning Olivia Rivers, a great-aunt who fell into scandalous behavior while married to a foreign officer stationed in India back in the twenties, and who never returned to Britain. Anne ultimately finds herself on a sojourn east to try and retrace Olivia's steps to understand what drove her to this fate.

As revealed through her writings, Olivia (Greta Scacchi) came to India young, beautiful, and newly married to the earnest if stodgy junior diplomat Douglas Rivers (Christopher Cazenove). In trying to adjust, Olivia finds much more than the climate to be oppressive, as she gamely tries to navigate the nuances of protocol amongst the British diplomatic corps and their native counterparts. The sole person to stand out from the unrelieved stuffiness is a local prince (Shashi Kapoor), who takes the audacious step of granting the Riverses an audience without inviting Douglas' superiors.

The charismatic nawab's interest in Olivia patently extends beyond mere diplomacy, and the extended time that she starts to spend in his company is frowned upon by the British, who believe him to be providing aid and support to the region's roving thugees. In the present day, Anne finds herself no less immune to the country's allure, hesitantly entering into an affair with her married landlord (Zakir Hussain) and becoming pregnant. The balance of the film follows her wrestling with her own fate as she seeks to reveal the truth behind Olivia's.

Heat And Dust needed strong work from its twin leads to be effective, and certainly received it. Christie turned down a more lucrative offer for The Verdict (1983) in order to sign on with the project, and gave an understated, thoughtful performance. Still, while she was the ostensible marquee name, the primary job of carrying the story belonged to Olivia's character. Scacchi, only 22 at the time of filming and radiantly pretty, proved more than up to the task, coming across with a veteran's assurance in her first starring role.

While Criterion has given the expected quality treatment to all of their recent Merchant/Ivory releases, the package for Heat and Dust is particularly robust. The DVD offers an amiable full-length commentary track by Ivory, Scacchi and co-star Nickolas Grace. There's also 17 minutes of new interviews with Merchant, Ivory, Jhabvala and composer Richard Robbins, where they address diverse issues from the choice of Scacchi to the graciousness of actress Madhur Jaffrey at being cast as the mother of her contemporary Kapoor. Merchant/Ivory completists will further enjoy the DVD's inclusion of an earlier, thematically similar work, Autobiography of a Princess (1975). The hour-long film, made for British television, concerns the jarring revelations that come during a private reunion between an exiled Indian princess (Jaffrey) and her family's onetime tutor (James Mason). The original theatrical trailer for the main feature rounds out the extras.

Criterion performed another superior mastering job on Heat and Dust, basting a new digital transfer from the original 35mm interpositive. The aspect ratio is the original theatrical 1.78:1; Autobiography of a Princess is presented in 1.33:1. The Dolby 2.0 audio track is likewise crisp.

For more information about Heat and Dust, visit Criterion Collection. To order Heat and Dust, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jay S. Steinberg
Heat And Dust

Heat and Dust

In the early 1980s, the entertainment media was flush with ruminations on the wane of British Colonial India, from Gandhi to A Passage To India to The Jewel in the Crown to The Far Pavilions. In the midst of this trend, producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory picked a propitious time to bring their longtime collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's generations-spanning novel to the screen as Heat and Dust (1983). Now available on DVD as part of The Criterion Collection's ongoing series of Merchant/Ivory films, the production holds up as a splendidly mounted if stately paced look at a bygone era. As does Jhabvala's opus, the film interweaves two parallel narratives taking place sixty years apart. BBC researcher Anne (Julie Christie) develops a fascination with her family's lore concerning Olivia Rivers, a great-aunt who fell into scandalous behavior while married to a foreign officer stationed in India back in the twenties, and who never returned to Britain. Anne ultimately finds herself on a sojourn east to try and retrace Olivia's steps to understand what drove her to this fate. As revealed through her writings, Olivia (Greta Scacchi) came to India young, beautiful, and newly married to the earnest if stodgy junior diplomat Douglas Rivers (Christopher Cazenove). In trying to adjust, Olivia finds much more than the climate to be oppressive, as she gamely tries to navigate the nuances of protocol amongst the British diplomatic corps and their native counterparts. The sole person to stand out from the unrelieved stuffiness is a local prince (Shashi Kapoor), who takes the audacious step of granting the Riverses an audience without inviting Douglas' superiors. The charismatic nawab's interest in Olivia patently extends beyond mere diplomacy, and the extended time that she starts to spend in his company is frowned upon by the British, who believe him to be providing aid and support to the region's roving thugees. In the present day, Anne finds herself no less immune to the country's allure, hesitantly entering into an affair with her married landlord (Zakir Hussain) and becoming pregnant. The balance of the film follows her wrestling with her own fate as she seeks to reveal the truth behind Olivia's. Heat And Dust needed strong work from its twin leads to be effective, and certainly received it. Christie turned down a more lucrative offer for The Verdict (1983) in order to sign on with the project, and gave an understated, thoughtful performance. Still, while she was the ostensible marquee name, the primary job of carrying the story belonged to Olivia's character. Scacchi, only 22 at the time of filming and radiantly pretty, proved more than up to the task, coming across with a veteran's assurance in her first starring role. While Criterion has given the expected quality treatment to all of their recent Merchant/Ivory releases, the package for Heat and Dust is particularly robust. The DVD offers an amiable full-length commentary track by Ivory, Scacchi and co-star Nickolas Grace. There's also 17 minutes of new interviews with Merchant, Ivory, Jhabvala and composer Richard Robbins, where they address diverse issues from the choice of Scacchi to the graciousness of actress Madhur Jaffrey at being cast as the mother of her contemporary Kapoor. Merchant/Ivory completists will further enjoy the DVD's inclusion of an earlier, thematically similar work, Autobiography of a Princess (1975). The hour-long film, made for British television, concerns the jarring revelations that come during a private reunion between an exiled Indian princess (Jaffrey) and her family's onetime tutor (James Mason). The original theatrical trailer for the main feature rounds out the extras. Criterion performed another superior mastering job on Heat and Dust, basting a new digital transfer from the original 35mm interpositive. The aspect ratio is the original theatrical 1.78:1; Autobiography of a Princess is presented in 1.33:1. The Dolby 2.0 audio track is likewise crisp. For more information about Heat and Dust, visit Criterion Collection. To order Heat and Dust, go to TCM Shopping. by Jay S. Steinberg

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Limited re-release in United States September 1, 2017

Released in United States Fall September 15, 1983

Released in United States January 1983

Released in United States January 1983

Released in United States June 24, 1990 (Shown as part of the series "The Films of Merchant Ivory" Los Angeles, June 24, 1990.)

Limited re-release in United States September 1, 2017 (New York/Los Angeles)

Released in United States Fall September 15, 1983

Released in United States June 24, 1990