Thursday, August 28, 2014

Distant Thunder

The Bengal Famine of 1943 took a toll of 2 to 5 millions. It was caused by diversion of food supplies due to war needs in SE Asia. The present film is a masterpiece of understatement. The camera telescopes on the lives of a village and scrutinizes the lives of a few characters. Ray is incapable of losing the human focus and we see the schoolmaster and his beautiful wife sucked into desperation by the scarcities. Not only is it about a society in the grip of famine but the stranglehold of hunger and the sinking human spirit. To quote Vincent Canby, it is like seeing it all from a satellite, and observing both the curvature of the earth and the play of tiny insects.

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