Skip to main content

DISTANT THUNDER

India, 1973 (MIFF 1974)

Director: Satyajit Ray

This is Satyajit Ray's second film in colour, and the Grand Prize winner at the Berlin Festival. The film is set in 1942, and its subject is the impact of war on an isolated Bengali village.

The Brahmin husband, Ganga. who has assumed leadership in the village, is respected by all as the priest, the doctor and the teacher in the school he himself set up. His wife Ananga, still childless, is friendly with the peasant women, and life for them both is pleasant enough.

One day an old Brahmin tells Ganga of a sudden rise in the price of rice in several neighbouring villages. Soon it becomes apparent that, despite a good harvest, the land is gripped by famine. As the price of rice shoots up, the whole aspect of life in the village changes. Peasants sell off their stocks and then face starvation; rice shops are looted; Ganga is reduced to selling his services to obtain enough food to survive. His wife is forced to dig for wild potatoes and finally to sell her favours to buy food for a starving friend.

At the height of the famine. Moti, an untouchable woman, comes to Ananga to beg for rice, and dies on her doorstep. Ganga has to decide whether to defy tradition in the face of drastic change, and burn the body.

The old traditions and strict forms of the caste system break down as the film moves through each understated crisis. As the social groups split apart. Ray shows his characters to be the victims of international forces beyond their comprehension or control.

'. . . marks a new departure in the style of the great Bengali filmmaker. The style here is epic and the delicately nuanced study of private relationships of earlier films here gives place to the grand gesture, stylized forms, a more externalized view of the personages.'

David Robinson, The Times

Golden Bear, Berlin

See also...

TWO DAUGHTERS

Made to celebrate the centenary of Rabindranath Tagore, "Two Daughters" is based on a duo of his short stories, "The Postmaster and "Samapti". The director, Satyajit Ray, has described them as ... More »

KANCHENJUNGHA

The setting for Satyajit Ray's first film in colour is the beautiful hill station of Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas: a point suspended in time between modern India and the gracious ... 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 HOME AND THE WORLD

In 1905, in keeping with the 'Divide and Rule' policy of India's British overlords, Lord Curzon (the British Viceroy) proposes splitting Bengal into two separate administrative units, intended to ... More »

NAYAK

The Hero is one of Satyajit Ray's modern stories, concerned with the life and thoughts of an Indian film star as he travels by train to collect a prize in Delhi. Through dreams and flashbacks, he ... More »

MAHANAGAR

Turning his back on the nostalgic past, on the lyricism of his earlier films. Satyajit Ray has produced a completely realistic contemporary masterpiece. Its theme is the conflict between the old and ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director