The Chess Players (1977)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  Shatranj Ke Khilari

India, 1977.  .  Screenplay by Satyajit Ray, dialogue by Satyajit Ray, , , from a story by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by Satyajit Ray.  Production Design by .  Costume Design by , Shama Zaidi.  Film Editing by .  

The principality of Oudh stands alone in 19th century India for having avoided British rule following the creation of a long-standing treaty that is now under threat. General Outram (Richard Attenborough) seeks to add to his exploits by putting the land under his control, and director Satyajit Ray laments on just how easy this is to accomplish. While the King remains secluded in his palace enjoying the comforts of his throne, two Generals represent the leading citizens of the country by avoiding all matter of serious political involvement and obsessing over daily games of chess. Not one to point fingers, Ray tells this gorgeously wrought story with healthy doses of humour and pathos, eliciting exquisite performances from the entire cast and photographing it with his usual mesmerizing beauty. Like many of his later films, the pace is somewhat sluggish, mired down in scenes of seemingly endless dialogue, but it is intelligent dialogue that you’ll get much out of if you’re in the right frame of mind. Another example of how Ray is one of cinema history’s most skilled artists.

Berlin Film Festival:  In Competition

Toronto International Film Festival:  1977


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