“India Song” is a 1975 French drama film directed by Marguerite Duras. 120 minutes.
Set in the French embassy in Calcutta, India in the 1930s, it depicts the story of a Vice-Consul, who goes mad with his impossible love for the wife of the French ambassador, by using an experimental technique without synchronizing the sound with the picture.
It is based on the play of the same name that Duras published in 1973. The character settling of the play had derived from her novel “Le Vice-Consul” (1966).
Direction, original story, and screenplay by Marguerite Duras.
Set in Calcutta in 1937. The people around the French embassy hear the forest birds singing, and they also hear a beggar woman from Savannakhet, Laos singing, shouting and laughing.
Two women are talking about Anne-Marie Stretter (Delphine Seyrig), the wife of the French ambassador. One of the women says that Anne-Marie had drowned herself in “the island” (the Ganges delta), and her tomb is in the English Cemetery.
Anne-Marie Stretter is a woman like a goddess in the colonial white society, and she gives herself to men, like a prostitute.
On the night when a party is held in the embassy, Anne-Marie dances with one of her lovers, Michael Richardson (Claude Mann).
The former Vice-Consul of Lahore, Pakistan (Michael Lonsdale) is also invited to attend the party. They say that he was relegated because he shot at leprosy patients when he was the Vice-Consul.
Ex-Vice-Consul dances with Anne-Marie, and he tells her his romantic feelings for her, but she rejects him. He cannot suppress his feelings, and he cries out.
“India Song” is composed of a series of long shots filmed by a fixed, or slowly-moving camera, and voice-over narrations and dialogues. The voices are not synchronized with the images. The speakers don’t appear on the screen. The characters on the screen close their lips when they talk.
The characters in the film move slow, like ghosts. The heavy use of images with mirrors has a tricky effect on the film. The whole film works like a prism of memories, and it gives the audience a strange experience like hypnosis.
Though the film is set in India, it was shot mostly on location at the Château Rothschild in Boulogne.
The film “Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert” (1976) directed by Marguerite Duras is a combination of almost the entire soundtrack of “India Song” and the images without characters shot in the Château Rothschild.