Don’t be put off by the flat visual style of its first two reels, this late Satyajit Ray film grows increasingly subtle & sophisticated in look and theme until it has gained the depth & texture of a great, morally complex novel. (It’s adapted from Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.) Victor Banerjee (the same year he made PASSAGE TO INDIA for David Lean) stars as a wealthy landowner in 1907, eager to give his wife a Western education and a taste of modern personal independence. His hopes are surpassed, but with tragic consequences when he opens his home and estate to an old school chum, now a political radical bringing a toxic mix of charm, strict ideology, corruption, religious intolerance & romantic passion. Yet even as his wife goes thru a sort of delayed adolescent rebellion in a matter of weeks, Banerjee won’t force a resolution he wants made of free choice. Banerjee is remarkably transparent in a role that could seem both passive & opaque; so too Ray in this late masterwork.
DOUBLE-BILL: Twenty years earlier, Ray’s CHARULATA/’64 took a contemporary look at some of the same ‘women’s issues’ seen here, and with an even better actress in Madhabi Mukherjee.