Skip to main content

PATHER PANCHALI

India, 1955 (MIFF 1957, Programme 38)

Director: Satyajit Ray

The 1956 Cannes Festival was remarkably rich in entries from famous directors. ^ Yet-in warmth, humanity and poetic sensitivity none could measure up to the first work of an outstanding film-maker - Pather Panchali, by Satyajit Ray.

"It is one of those rare works in which noth¬ing seems to happen, but where we feel that we are being given a piece of life itself, un-embellished, where we see before our eyes people living their daily lives with their small joys and their great affliction. All this without-false exoticism, honestly and without exaggerating the facts."

It is the story of a poor family living in a patched-up hovel in a Bengali village. The father is a dreamer, sometimes paid in his job as a clerk. His wife has to make do from day to day. There are two children, a girl and a boy, and an incredibly wizened, capricious old lady whom they know as "Auntie". The lives of these people are all the story of the film: there is no tight dramatic construction or conventional plot, the tension is poetic rather than dramatic, created by the artist's intimate contact with his material, physical as well as emotional.

Everything is significant, small joys, bitternesses and tragedies intermingled with the hard routine of every day. The mother prepares a meal, and the children play. Around the wretched house are shady, woodland paths, stretches of water, fields of tall feathered grass. The children have no lack of delights and mysteries: the sweet seller passing down the track calling his wares: an express train charging powerfully across the plain.

The film's rhythm is slow, absorbed, reflecting the rhythm of simple lives. There are too many mouths to feed and the old lady, grown irritating beyond endurance, goes off to die alone in the forest. The rains begin; the little girl becomes ill: rain heats into the hut, the little girl dies. In the end the rest of the -family move away into the city. With this sad humanistic affirmation, tenaciously holding his people's faces, Ray ends his film. The sense of this unsubtitled version will be rendered by an English commentary.

See also...

WORLD OF APU

So much has already been written about Pather Panchali and Aparajito that Ray's trilogy was destined for classic status even before the release of the third instalment, and the various influences ... More »

APARAJITO

In the second part of the Apu trilogy, we find Harihar, his wife, Sarbojaya, and their son, Apu, in the holy city of Benares. Here, the father ekes out a living by reading the scriptures; when he ... More »

THE STRANGER

... ... The great Indian director Satyajit Ray died in April, shortly after receiving an Oscar for his lifetime achievements. His last film,The Stranger, is a deceptively simple but affecting moral ... More »

PATHER PANCHALI

The Apu Trilogy, India's most important contribution to world cinema so far, is based on the Bengali novel by Bibhuti Bhusan Bannerji. The book contains a great deal of autobiographical material and ... More »

THE ADVENTURES OF GOOPY AND BAGHA

Goopy is a singer who cannot sing and he meets Bagha, a drummer, after they have both been driven from their respective villages. They sing and play to disperse their fears during ... a night in the ... More »

THE KINGDOM OF DIAMONDS

"It is an ironic comment that the major audiences for Satyajit Ray's mature works are in the West, whilst commercial interests in India limit them to a small coterie: yet his children*s films have a ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director