The eyes aren’t just the windows to the soul; they’re the bearer of truth, and the messengers of feelings. It’s no wonder that any director looking for a thoughtful, scrupulous shot focuses there — whether it’s Quentin Tarantino portraying the anger and frustration The Bride (Uma Thurman) feels when she’s being buried alive by Budd (Michael Madsen) in “Kill Bill Vol. 2;” or the subject of a Pixies song, Luis Buñuel’s surrealist masterpiece “Un Chien Andalou.”
Indian director Satyajit Ray used captivating glances to exude emotion in his epic coming-of-age “Apu Trilogy,” as well as in 1963’s “The Big City,” another coming-of-age film of sorts, but this time focusing on a married couple each with their own occupational difficulties. And this video essay from Fandor explores his technique.
The entire film is told through the way each character looks at another — Subrata and Aarti, the husband and wife, begin their journey together without making eye contact at all, until that develops into small, seductive glances. Eventually, eye contact is used to emote or suppress how they are feeling, like Aarti’s refusal to look at Subrata when he asks her to leave her job she’s worked so hard at.
Eye contact plays its own pivotal role in the film as a character as well, with Subrata losing his job because of not making it with his clients — his inattention costs him his job — and Aarti gaining responsibility and respect at her position for being stern, attentive, and informative.
Ray’s beautiful, timeless oeuvre represents the spectrum of feelings we don’t see very often in film — what afflicts us in our everyday lives — and through the power of a glance, he’s able to say more than most are with several hours of film. Watch below. [No Film School]