Posted by martinteller on December 15, 2015
I’ve always said that although it’s called “The Apu Trilogy”, Pather Panchali is really about Durga and Aparajito is really about Apu’s mother, Sarbojaya. But on this viewing, I realized that I was wrong about the second part. The narrative does put some of its focus on the mother, but I would say most of it is devoted to Apu’s life and viewpoint. It’s about his choices and his aspirations. He is more than a pair of eyes here… he has agency and introduces change.
I also said in an earlier view that I think Ray judges Apu too harshly here, but again I’ve changed my mind. I don’t see judgment being passed. Whether Apu could have done things differently (and whether it would had any impact either way) is up for debate… the film doesn’t force an opinion on it. It’s hard to discuss specifics without getting into spoiler territory, but to me he doesn’t do anything out of line. In essence, he is a kind and thoughtful person, but like any adolescent he’s starting to form a life for himself. Ray’s humanist slant invites us to explore emotion and motivation rather than assign blame. It’s one of the things I love about his work. No one is condemned outright for their flaws and mistakes.
Of the trilogy, this is one I think about the least, and the other two provoke greater emotional reactions. For that reason, it remains my least favorite of the three. But all of them are exceptional films, and the poetry of Aparajito is apparent in its observation of daily life, its connections between people and their surroundings, and the great empathy we feel for the characters. Within the film itself we see the transition from (in the first half) the loose, anecdotal structure of Ray’s debut to the more straightforward narrative style (in the second half) that would characterize most of his work. It does not come off as a disjointed movie, however, but rather a natural flow… perhaps as Apu’s life gains purpose and direction, so does his story. Rating: Great (90)