The Goddess (1960)

The Goddess (Devi)
Directed by Satyajit Ray
Written by Satyajit Ray; story by Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee
1960/India
First viewing/FilmStruck

 

The idea that women are innately gentle is a fantasy, and a historically recent one. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, is depicted as wreathed in male human skulls; the cruel entertainments of the Romans drew audiences as female as they were male; Boudicca led her British troops bloodily into battle. Naomi Wolf

 

I’m still pondering the meaning of this beautiful but strange film.

Doyamoyee and Umaprasad (played by Shamila Tagore and Soumitra Chaterjee of Apu Sansar) have been married three years and still seem like newlyweds.  They live with his father (Chhabi Biswas, The Music Room), a wealthy devotee of Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction, creation, time and power.  Umaprasad is a Christian.  Doyamoyee is apparently Hindu. Umaprasad’s married brother also lives at home.  His small son is devoted to his aunt.

Umaprasad must return to Calcutta to study for his English exams which will complete his education.  They discuss moving away, perhaps abroad, after he passes.  Neither know how Umaprasad’s father will live without his daughter-in-law.

While Umaprasad is away, his father has a dream that Doyamoyee is the incarnation of Kali.  He begins to host devotions to Doyamoyee as if she were the goddess, to which the confused young woman passively assents.  The poor begin to show up with their ailing relatives seeking cures.  Umaprasad rushes home.  I don’t want to spoil the rest of the plot.

I thought Ray left it to the audience’s imagination as to what many of the characters actually believed as to the divinity of the wife.  The very ending also seemed ambiguous to me as well.  I watched the ending twice and still could not make up my own mind.  If anyone has seen this film, I would love to discuss it.  As always with Ray, the imagery is very striking.  The print available on FilmStruck didn’t do it justice.  Recommended to lovers of religious/psychological mysteries.

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