THE RIVER (1951)

Director: Jean Renoir
Writer: Jean Renoir, Rumer Godden (novel and screenplay)
Cinematography: Claude Renoir
Cast: Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight, Arthur Shields, Patricia Walters
Running Time: 99 min.

“I can’t imagine cinema without water. The movement of cinema has something ineluctable about it, like the current of a stream.” — Jean Renoir.

Jean Renoir, son of impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir, made his first film in 1924, selling some of his father’s paintings to finance his endeavors. Already considered to be one of France’s greatest filmmakers when he fled the Nazi occupation for the United States in 1940, Renoir used water-imagery throughout a career that lasted over five decades.

Renoir worked closely with writer Rumer Godden to craft her story of young romance into a look at life in post-war India. The Ganges river, a source of dependability and comfort in a young girl’s troubled life, becomes a metaphor for the process of transformation. Part love story, part travelogue, part cultural artifact, the film is both poetry and paean, a coming-of-age story whose subject is both an adolescent girl and a vanishing way of life.

The River was Renoir’s first film in color, magnificently shot by the director’s nephew, Claude Renoir. Along with Indian camera operator Ramananda Sen Gupta, the filmmakers honor the Renoir name with their lush portrait of life and love in a changing world.

(return to FILM FEST 2002)

Leave a Reply