Daily Archives: April 6, 1975

DISTANT THUNDER (1976 review)

From Sight and Sound, Spring 1975.  This is probably the most embarrassing review I’ve ever published (in addition to being one of the very worst) — particularly for reasons given in a quite reasonable letter published in the next (Spring 1975) issue, which I’ve reproduced below, along with my reply. But it’s an instructive sort of embarrassment, which is my main reason for reproducing it now, after some initial reluctance. -– J.R.

Distant Thunder


‘Over five million people in Bengal starved or died in epidemics because of the man-made famine in 1943.’ The title appears over the final shot of Satyajit Ray’s film –- a quasi-expressionistic, rather Bergmanesque vision of silhouetted figures standing on the edge of a precipice, composing a line of seemingly endless breadth behind the camera’s fateful retreat – and is clearly the crucial piece of information around which the preceding 100 minutes have been constructed. Yet the sheer immensity and horror of this unambiguous fact, essentially as unfilmable as it is unimaginable beyond the abstraction of statistics and other metaphors, can operate structurally only as a coda and ‘footnote’ to the rest of the discourse, even if it paradoxically comprises this discourse’s raison d’être. … Read more »