The World of Apu should not be qualified by the 'final part of a trilogy' tag. It stands surely on its own, prologue included, and this is not to overlook the fact that an extra dimension can be gained by seeing it after the earlier two films, Pather Panchali and Aparajito. This film is more than the sum of the successful contributions of a handful of technicians, and although its milieu is absolutely convincing and established without pretension it should not be patronised by being deemed significant for its peculiar relevance to the problems of contemporary India or Bengal. Its significance to India is that it confirms the emergence of a major creative talent who must be ceded a place beside the other contemporary greats Bergman and Fellini.
Stripped immodestly to essentials, The World of Apu explores the paradoxical business of death-in-life and the rebirth dependent upon it. (p. 83)
The film is constructed from dynamically linked movements, later ones containing reminders and overtones of the various states of innocence the former come to represent….
Ray's personal vision fuses the unsophisticated narrative. A dynamic tightening is effected by various patterns of imagery, particularly a recurrence of child images and sounds…. [The] unobtrusive accumulation of sounds and images into suggestive patterns gives The World of Apu a most satisfying, yet in no way formal or artificial, structure.
Ray has rejected conventional time lapses, which he finds cheap and artificial, and Apu is an illustration of how brilliantly he has managed to convey a considerable stretch of time in which an important process is occurring….
The restraint of Ray's camera is remarkable: closeups are handled religiously, their length governed by a sensitive discrimination. (p. 84)
John Burgess, "Films of the Quarter: 'The World of Apu'," in Film Journal (copyright by Melbourne University Film Society), No. 16, August, 1960, pp. 83-5.