Rabindranath Tagore stated that the world will be seen within the mirrored convexity of a dewdrop. As I write this in Edinburgh, Scotland, 5,000 miles away from Kolkata, it makes me consider the movies of Satyajit Ray. So a lot of them are microcosms. So a lot of them are small worlds by which we are able to see the world mirrored. The English title of his movie Ghare Baire is The House And The World, which describes his method to his artwork. The small and the big in the identical place.
The village within the Apu trilogy was his first contained place. Although it was filled with specifics about Bengali life, individuals world wide may see parts of their existence in it. The mansion in Devi is one other microcosm. In it, a person goals that his daughter-in-law is a goddess, individuals flock to her and the universe appears to change into centred on their residence. In Charulata, the lonely spouse appears confined to the house however appears to be like exterior with binoculars. Days And Nights In The Forest is about happening a visit, so at first sight it doesn’t appear to be about confinement. However the journey centres on a forest, the movie turns into a short lived village and, in its well-known sport of word- play, the sensation of microcosm intensifies. Because the layers of reminiscence construct, we really feel that we’re in a type of whirlpool.
Ray’s most intense and haunting whirlpool is, for me, Jalsaghar. At its centre is an ageing landlord. Exterior his residence, society is altering, the elite way of life is being challenged by new economies however like a crab in a rock pool, he needs to remain in his personal music room. The well-known visible second within the movie is when he sees a chandelier mirrored in his drink. It’s confined, similar to him.
In fact nice film-makers—Robert Bresson, Ingmar Bergman, and so forth.—have been enthusiastic about closed worlds, however there’s a specific sense of the digicam obscura, the huis clos, in Ray’s movies, I really feel. The place Hindi cinema, for instance, is all about escape and travelogue and sometimes doesn’t have what the French name terroir, the particular floor on which a vine grows that offers its grapes flavour, Ray’s confinements enrich his work. Centrifuges spin issues outwards however Ray’s was partially a centripetal creativeness.
There are risks on this. Such movies can really feel claustrophobic or insular however his normally don’t as a result of specializing in small locations deepened his tales. It pushed him to metaphor and psychology. Confinement led to thematic density and layering. We frequently discuss Hindi cinema as masala cinema, by which we imply a generic combine. In Ray’s microcosms, we get an existence combine. On the obvious degree there’s the human drama, the battle. However beneath that floor we are able to see the panorama of Bengali society. Inside that we hear the melody of feminism. And beneath that—harmonising with that—we get the recurrent menace (or alternative) of modernity, capitalism and rationalism. And indistinctly above all this, hanging within the air, is the query of the sacred.
I worth the movies of Ray a lot as a result of his microcosms don’t really feel far-off from my European, Celtic one. I’ve nonetheless a lot to be taught from Satyajit Ray (and I’ve a tattoo of certainly one of his drawings on my arm!).
Mark Cousins is a film-maker and author based mostly in Edinburgh.