Staff Movie Review: “The Apu Trilogy”

Thanks to JCPL’s Acquisitions and Serial Clerk, Michael Evanochko, for sharing his thoughts on “The Apu Trilogy”. You can find it in our catalog here.

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“Mesmerizing” is always the first word that comes to mind when I think of “The Apu Trilogy”, an insightful, thought-provoking, documentary-style work by Director Satyajit Ray that was released between 1955-1959. The trilogy is in Bengali with English subtitles.

“Pather Panchali, the first installment of the trilogy, was originally meant to be a singular production with no thought to continuing the story. From the opening scenes viewers are transported to a rural Bengali setting. We are immersed in the simple, harsh life of a family in which the mother is in charge of keeping the household intact while her priest-husband is away from home. We are introduced to Apu, the series’ protagonist, from his birth through his boyhood years. Young Apu’s sense of discovery is the main focus of the film, as he tries to find his place among the women surrounding him: his mother, his somewhat rebellious sister, and his elderly “auntie”. The story culminates when his father returns to find that his ancestral home has been destroyed during a monsoon. Gathering what is salvageable, he moves away to a city on the Ganges River.

This is where Director Satyajit Ray intended to end his story. However, after the film’s release in 1955 and the international accolades it received, including awards from the Cannes, Berlin, and Venice Film Festivals, Ray decided to continue the story. “The Apu Trilogy” not only propelled Ray into the spotlight, it also became the foundation which eventually led to his being declared the “Greatest Indian Filmmaker of All Time” by the Indian government.

The next two films, “Aparajito” and “Apur Sansar”, complete the series. In them we see Apu maturing, receiving an education, pursuing his dream of becoming a writer, getting married, and becoming a father.

The whole series is mesmerizing. The cinematography is as impressive as the story itself. And, with its many different philosophical insights, this trilogy provokes one to think and reexamine what really matters.

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