Sonntag, 1. Dezember 2013

Charulata (Satyajit Ray, 1964)

A lonely wife of a newspaper editor falls in love with his bohemian brother.

Unfortunately, I didn't get drawn in by the movie enough emotionally, but nevertheless I could admire the perfect direction. I will definitely rewatch this film at some point. It can be a matter of mood, sometimes. The whole film plays practically all through in a few confined rooms, with a few exceptions towards the end of the film. The ending of the film has some visually unusual choices visually of which I felt a bit uneasy.

But the beginning of the movie is fascinating to study. It shows Charulata alone and we get introduced to her life and her character without barely a word.

During the opening credits, two female hands are seen, stitching. The silk and the hand seem refined, so we can guess that this is not a poor woman in the street. Then the camera pulls back and shows Charulata on the bed. Ray uses tracking for most of these first shots, following his protagonist around the house. The whole film is full of those tracking and dolly shots, the camera seems constantly on the move, albeit sometimes only very subtle.
Charulata calls for Brojo with the voice of a mistress and with routine anger. The camera follows her to the staircase and tracks back again, when she walks towards the camera. It introduces not only the servant, but the architecture of the yard. Charulata lives on the first floor and a balcony surrounds the courtyard.

She returns to her room and throws the finished broidery on the bed, maybe slightly annoyed or bored. She then grabs a book from the bed and pages through it. She seems to know the contents well, but she grabs it and walks off.
The camera follows Charulata walking through the courtyard, where she passes through her door, possibly separating her private quarters from the rest of the house. This part of the house seems more lavishly decorated. She must be very well off.
She enters a beautifully furnished and ornamental room and opens a cabinet to the right of the camera. Very carefully, she puts her back into the shelf. The way she touches the different books it is obvious that she really likes books, at least these books here. Searching for a bit, she selects another book. We guess, that she must have read them all. This is the first time that the camera doesn't move.
Slightly bored, she studies the book in her hands, when she notices a drumming coming from outside. Humming, and reading a passage from the book, she slowly walks to the next room. The camera follows her from the back, as she strides towards the window blinds in the next room. She looks out and something catches her attention. Excited, she runs off, back to her room.
She grabs a little opera glass from a drawer and rushes back to the window with it. There is quite a long take of her walking across the balcony, but it's focused really close on the opera glass.
She looks through the glasses and sees a street beggar/musician with monkeys on a leash. At this point it is clear, that she is a sort of prisoner benevolently held in a kind of a golden cage.

The whole introduction takes approximately 9 minutes, and gives all the information needed to understand some of Charulata's problems. She is an intelligent, refined and possibly active woman, but she is not free to do what she wants.

When Charulata is bored of watching people through the opera glass, she hears something from the courtyard. When she steps out onto the balcony, a man, reading a book passes her, completely ignoring her. The way she looks at him it is quite clear that this must be her husband or somebody close. 
With an air of rebellion she watches him through the opera glass, too. He seems just as distant as the outside world, although he is inside the house. Charulata's problem has been clearly stated.

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