Film Analysis 2

November 29th, 2010

Pather Pancheli is a bengali picture that was released in India in 1955. The movie was directed by Satyajit Ray, a director who was influenced by Italian Neorealism.  His initial encounter was his trip to London where he stayed for six months and saw a whole range of movies from different genres. He stated later on that “”all through my stay in London, the lessons of Bicycle Thieves and neo-realist cinema stayed with me”.  Considering this it is no amazement that his movie was neo-realist in its style. In Pather Panchali we are brought into the lives of Apu and his family who are struggling to make ends meet and this is dominant theme of the movie. I will attempt to use a scene from the movie to depict the larger themes of the movie namely the families struggle with their harsh economic conditions.

The scene that I will be using is the scene where Durga, the daughter, dies due to her fever. The scene opens with the mother, Sarbajaya,  kneeling towards Durga who is sleeping. From the light setting as well as the prescence of a lamp makes is evident that it is nightitme. She then takes a wet cloth, soaks it in the water and places it on Durga’s head, while she places her other hand on her head, a gesture commenly used in South Asian culture to signify anxiety of the utmost degree. We then see a close up shot of the flame in the lamp. The camera then returns to Sarbajaya and her daughter Durga. We see that Sarbajaya is tired and is slowly falling asleep, while at the same time we see Durga who is rolling her head in her sleep due to her illness and the discomfort she is in. Sarbajaya is suddenly awakened by a rattling sound and she looks at the window and sees the curtain being blown by a strong wind. The she looks around and identifies the sound to be coming from the plank closing the door rattling due to the wind outside pushing on the door. She looks around worried and then changes the wet cloth over Durga’s head again. We then see Durga roll her head around in pain and Sarbajaya caresses her. The camera then focuses on the door which seems on the verge of being forced open by the vicious gale outside. The camera then shifts its focus to the curtain which like the door is also on the verge of being blown open. The camera then returns to Sarbajaya who is now slowly becoming frightened by the storm outside and we also see the flame of the lamp which seems to be shivering from the wind. Then we are taken to a shot of a statue of an elephant, called Ganpati, the God that they worship. The statue is shaking from the wind that is making its way into the house. The camera then returns to Sarbajaya who is now scared from the storm outside and is looking around in despair, hoping that the storm doesn’t makes its way in. We then are taken back to the curtains which seem to be being blown with and even more powerful gale. The shot returns back to Sabajaya and Durga. Sarajaya looks around once again, now at the height of her fright knowing that the gale is about to break in. We then see a flash of light on Sarbajaya face, the light that the lightning produced. Then suddenly one of the corners where the curtain was tied to the wall gives way and the curtain opens. Sarbajaya runs to tie it and then the camera returns to the door where the plank holding the door closed seems like it will finally give way as well. We return to Sarbajaya and she is seen tieing the curtain closed once again. The shot now goes to Durga who is in agony and says “Ma.” Sarbajaya upon hearing this looks back and then suddenly we see the door open by the gale. Sarbajaya then hurries to the door where she pushes a chest to close the door and we can see the door banging open and close. The camera then goes to Durga who is calling her Surbajaya. Then we see that Surbajay closes the door and comes to Durga’s aid and gived Durga a blanket. Instead of taking the blanket Durga has her arms stretched out in an attempt to embrace her mother. Sarbajaya comes and embraces Durga caressing her and we can see what appears to be water on her cheeks but it is indescernible whether it is the rain from the storm or her tears. The shot then ends by taking us to their God’s idol, ganpati, and we see it shaking to and fro due to the storm.

This scene holds great significance for the film because not only does it serve as the climax of the movie but it also serves as a perfectly portrayal of the movies thematic issues. All throughout the movie we see the family struggling to make ends meet. The other families are all doing better than them and this family is plagued by poverty, regardless of all the attempts of the father who is the main bread earner, to make their situation better. There is a lot of symbolism used in this scene. The storm, for example, signifies their harsh luck, which regardless of their attempts to keep it out of their lives still comes in. When viewing this scene one gets the feeling that the storm comes and takes Durga away. Another symbol was the flame of the lantern which was trying its best not to be extinguised by the storm but in the end we it is implied that it does. We don’t know whether the flame extinguished but we are not shown the flame after the door opens due to the storm, implying that the flame was extinguished. The flame is used to symbolise Durga, as when like the flame she is extinguished in the sense that her life is taken away.

Another interesting thing to note is that we see the statue sitting there shaking and we get the feeling that all this is being “supervised” by God in a way as the scene even ends with a shot of the statue. In the storm the only way that we can see that the storm can enter is from the window and door. The window and door are used to symbolize the parents, Harihar Ray and Sarbajaya. The window and door try to keep the storm out, much like Harihar and Sarbajay try to keep poverty out of their childrens’ lives by trying to provide for them. Satyajit Ray ties up all the dominant themes present in the movie into this one scene and upon inspection one can see this is quite evident. It is no wonder that this is one of his most celebrated movies and probably his masterpiece.

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One Response to “Film Analysis 2”

  1. Amy Herzog on December 28, 2010 4:33 pm

    Fantastic analysis– your description of the scene recreates the tension of the moment perfectly! Thanks so much for a semester’s worth of insightful posts– I’ve really enjoyed reading them. You should think about adding a film studies minor to your pre-med curriculum 🙂

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