Satyajit Ray Tom Milne - Essay

Tom Milne

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Days and Nights in the Forest … the very title rings with enchantment, and the old Ray magic is soon at work again….

[Whereas] it would be impossible to detach Chekhov's characters, or indeed James's, from their very precise social contexts, Ray's characters seem to belong so essentially to no other time than their own that they could step quite easily out of Charulata into Days and Nights in the Forest, bridging three-quarters of a century in the process. Partly, of course, this is because aspects of Victoriana have survived quaintly in Indian life; partly because Ray has a respect for traditional (especially cultural) values which is hardly shared by modern society; but mostly because he withdraws so determinedly from the tempo of this technological age that time becomes almost as important a factor in his films as it is with Resnais…. (p. 48)

[It] is interesting that the most frequent criticism levelled against Ray by his detractors is that his films are too slow, and by his admirers, that he cannot handle melodrama (e.g. much of Abhijan, the end of Mahanagar, the assault on Hari in Days and Nights in the Forest). Opposite ends of the same candle, these criticisms arise because Ray's cinema is essentially one of contemplation in which both he and his characters like to ponder first, act afterwards. (p. 49)

Tom Milne, "'Days and Nights in the Forest'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1972 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 41, No. 1, Winter, 1971–72, pp. 48-9.