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...

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 »

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 »

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 »

THE ELEPHANT GOD

Each new film by Satyajit Ray brings with it fond memories of earlier privileged moments from this master of cinema. Ray has now been at the height of his powers for some years, and his work in the ... 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 »

WORLD OF APU

The third part of the Bengali saga continues the story of Apu, now a young man living in Calcutta and dreaming of a literary career and a positive future. An old friend invites him to a village ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director