Pather panchali

Satyajit Ray, India, 1955


This sequence starts with the observation of a purely meteorological event: Clouds invade the sky, the wind rises, thunder growls, the leaves of the waterlilies shake in the wind, the first drops of rain start to fall, the wet dog shakes itself dry. The two children, Apu, the little brother, and Durga, his older sister, pay no attention to their mother’s call, the storm takes them by surprise, and take shelter under a big tree. Durga steps tentatively away from the tree, and starts to play out in the rain, getting her long hair wet, twisting it around and around. This joyous dance under the rain becomes like a private performance for her little brother. When she returns his side, sheltering in the hollow of the tree she sneezes repeatedly, whilst chanting a repetitive incantation, meant to chase the rain away. This sense of play is swiftly replaced by drama. We find her in her bed, the consequence of playing out in the rain is that she will die after having caught a chill in the storm.

In this sequence the filmmaker had to recreate the sensations of a storm, and arrange them in a dramatic way. The progression through the states of the weather was obviously artificially orchestrated during the filming and editing, it’s clear that the curtain of rain comes from a water sprinkler system arranged in front of the camera.