Satyajit Ray's masterly potrayal of village life in India enchants with its intense beauty and simplicity. The life of a family of four, mother, father, brother and sister, and their occasssional visitng and ancient great aunt proceeds, with a minimalist attention to detail, to slip gradually deeper into poverty and towards tragedy with what seems a natural inevitability that eventually appals. The vitality of brother and sister, as they explore the tiny dimensions of their world, there spiritedness and the strength of the natural bond between them, are perhpaps the heart of the film.
In a moment of almost hallucinatory beauty, the two leave their village in search of the framilies lost calf, into fields of long grass, past new electricity pylons that tower miraculously above them after the cluastrophobic containmnet of the village world, and eventually to the railway tracks they have never before seen, even though the sound of the train can be heard from their village. As a stream train roars past, the viewer for a moment is transported to that point of wonder and awe, romaticised as the child's view, which we so often yearn for.
Throughout the film, senses are sharpened and refreshed; the sound of feet walking on the village's mud paths, of rain falling on the roof of the dilapidated house, the taste of guavas stolen from an orchard that used to belong to your own family:
the accumulation of so much sensuous beauty leaves the soul brimming and the heart with a new thirst for life.