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Master filmmaker Satyajit Ray explores the conflict between fanaticism and free will in Devi (The Goddess)issuing a subversively modern challenge to religious orthodoxy and patriarchal power structures. In the waning days of mid-nineteenth-century India’s feudal system, after his son Soumitra Chatterjee) leaves for Kolkata to complete his studies, a wealthy rural landowner (Chhabi Biswas) is seized by the notion that his beloved daughter-in-law (a hauntingly sad-eyed Sharmila Tagore) is the reincarnation of the goddess Kali—a delusion that proves devastating to the young woman and those around her. The opulently stylized compositions and the chiaroscuro lighting by cinematographer Subrata Mitra heighten the entrancing expressionistic intensity of this domestic tragedy, making for an experience that is both sublime and shattering.

Picture 7/10

Satyajit Ray’s Devi (aka The Goddess) receives its first North American home video release courtesy of The Criterion Collection, presented on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc in its original aspect of 1.37:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode is sourced from a brand-new 4K restoration performed by The Criterion Collection in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata.

Considering the limited availability of ideal materials, I think this has turned out remarkably well. Sadly, as the notes around the restoration detail, the original negative was burned in a fire and only about 16-minutes’ worth of footage was usable, reels two and twelve. The rest of the restoration was sourced from the best elements that remain, which was primarily a third-generation duplicate negative and a 35mm print, the latter of which sounds to have been solely used for the opening credits.

Though I wouldn't say damage is a big issue it does make its presence known. It's largely noticeable along the edges of the frame where minor scratches and such come raining through, but the restoration efforts have been thorough otherwise, really only leaving the faint remnants of some of the more aggressive marks and scratches in the middle of a frame. I can only imagine the original quality of the materials, so I was still more than thrilled with how things turned out.

Detail levels are pretty good, if not great, a majority of the film having a dupier, fuzzier look to it. The sequences that I suspect come from the negative (the section following the opening festival/nighttime sequences and then the final few minutes) are still limited but easily the sharpest and clearest looking moments in the film, helped by a distinct grayscale that aids in the finer shadows. The rest of the film is far darker in comparison to these moments. Contrast is where things are most off a majority of the time, more than likely thanks to the later-generation print that was available. The black levels are pretty deep, limiting details and eating up the shadows, and the grayscale is limited. Likewise, some of the brighter scenes look a bit blown out, also obliterating some of those finer details. I suspect most of the issues present, from wonky contrast to limited details, are all inherent to the source materials, and once those details are gone from the original elements there's only so much that can be done.

Even if those source materials are problematic, the base scan is very good, as is the encode. Grain is intact and looks very clean, maybe one of Criterion's cleaner renderings as of late, delivering that film texture I like to see. I also can't say I noticed any digital artifacts popping up.

Issues with the source materials aside, I thought this still turned out incredibly.

Audio 5/10

The film comes with a lossless PCM 1.0 monaural soundtrack. It’s a bit tinny and harsh, especially music, but ultimately fine. I think that it ultimately comes down to the materials.

Extras 5/10

Sadly, the supplements are limited to only a couple of short pieces, but I rather enjoyed them. Criterion pieces together another interview segment featuring actors Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterjee, both recorded separately in 2013 during what I can only assume was lengthy conversation about Ray’s works; portions from the same interviews have appeared in some of Criterion’s other Ray releases. The two talk about what Ray was aiming to do with the film, the director protesting superstitious beliefs and backward-looking ideals that he felt were too strong in India, and he hoped the film would “enlighten” his audience. Unfortunately, as the two explain, this wasn't to be the case as the film did very poorly, critics even reacting harshly to what they saw as an attack on Hinduism. The conversation also touches on certain moments and scenes in the film, Tagore addressing the idea that the father-in-law’s attraction to her character is what fed into his delusion. The two yet again prove very forthcoming and provide some wonderful insights into the film's topic and themes.

Film scholar Meheli Sen then provides an excellent 17-minute visual essay around the film. She states that Ray had concerns around how the film would be more than likely lost on western audiences, and Sen’s essay seems to be here more to help contextualize the film for those audiences. This includes some history around the central goddess, the layered meanings behind the constant use of the word “mother” (or “ma”), along with the many other layers to the film. She also quickly walks viewers through the film, going over general plot points and the meaning behind some of the imagery, explaining costumes and music. It's incredibly thorough for its short running time but this is a case where a commentary may have proved especially beneficial.

The included insert then features an analytical essay on the film by Devika Girish, co-deputy editor of Film Comment magazine, venturing out to Ray’s other films and expaning on some of the topics covered by Sen in her visual essay, including how the word “ma” offers a foreshadowing of things to come.

Sadly, it’s again very slim, just over a half hour in video material, but it is all worth exploring.


Though it feels like a slim release, the material included does a wonderful job contextualizing the film, and those involved in the restoration have pulled off an impressive feat considering the materials available. Anyone fond of Ray’s works should pick this one up.


Directed by: Satyajit Ray
Year: 1960
Time: 93 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1102
Licensor: Chhayabani Private Limited
Release Date: October 26 2021
MSRP: $39.95
1 Disc | BD-50
1.37:1 ratio
Bengali 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region A
 New program featuring interviews with actors Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterjee, recorded in 2013   New video essay by film scholar Meheli Sen   An essay by film critic Devika Girish