Days and Nights in the Forest (1970)

1 11 2008

Of all the Satyajit Ray films I’ve watched lately, this is by far the most emotionally and formally mature effort. I suppose this shouldn’t be a huge surprise since it is also the youngest film I’ve seen of his. Whatever the case, this definitely takes what I liked about Charulata and Nayak and put into a stylistic context that is a bit more calm but confident. Calling this an Antonioni film with a lot of dialogue would be a pretty good idea of the overall tone. Even though I would have preferred for the film to be a bit less talkative, it is still pretty impressive that Ray was able to juggle all the talking and still make a very “contemplative” experience.

The characters here are a lot more accessible than the ones in the other Ray films I’ve seen, including Pather Panchali. Here, the story centers around a group of four males, seemingly longtime friends, who take a break from their draining work lives to vacation in an isolated forest. It’s by far the most free form narrative structure I’ve seen in a Ray film and it compliments the slightly conscious “character study” element of the film. It’s the same sort of character-driven tone that is found in the last three Ray films I’ve watched, but it feels a bit more calm and unhurried here.

It’s a bit ironic then that this film is substantially shorter than Mahanager as that film tries to cram a lot into its 135 minute running time. Here, the characters are quickly laid out. One can quickly immerse themselves into their interactions. It helps a great deal that the visual style here is much more consistent than it is in most of Ray’s other films. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see an extremely shaky handheld sequence followed by a long static take in some of his films from the 1960s, but here, everything feels much more unified and cohesive.

So while this feels like one of Ray’s longest (or perhaps just slowest) films, it also feels like one of his most satisfying. It’s one of his most “complete” and “fufilling” films simply because it takes the time to push the audience into the world of its characters and there is very little dramatic pacing to follow. There is some hints at conventional dramatic turns towards the film’s conclusion, but it is certainly not enough to taint the previous hour and forty minutes.

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One response

1 11 2008
Life's Elsewhere

Hello, good to see you regularly revisiting Ray’s films. I am a Bengali (right from Ray’s land) blogger who also blogs about films sometimes (I teach Film Studies in a local university). I love your posts on Westerns too.

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