Cinema: Famine


Directed and Written by SATYAJIT RAY

Satyajit Ray's superb and achingly simple Distant Thunder concerns the famine in Bengal in 1943. It is a matter of record: 5 million people died. Numbers as huge as this can be dangerous. A tragedy of such magnitude becomes an event abstracted by arithmetic. But Ray's artistry alters the scale. His concentrating on just a few victims of the famine causes such massive loss to become real, immediate. Ray makes numbers count.

Distant Thunder has the deliberate, unadorned reality of a folk tale, a fable of encroaching, enlarging catastrophe. The thunder of the title refers directly...

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