The Golden Fortress ★★★½

While it lacks the worldclass artistry of his more notable work, Satyajit Ray's Sonar Kella is a sweet film with tons of fun, suspense, and action. (Ray's Feluda character is basically a mix of Sherlock Holmes, Tintin and James Bond). The child actors are great and the sets and locations are incredible. It's one thing to write an adventure story set in these wonderful exotic places, but it's a completely different challenge to actually film there!

My favorite part of watching was noticing how Ray chose to deviate from his original novel in order to restructure the story for a better cinematic experience. Recently I've been reading about the differences between Aaron Sorkin's To Kill A Mockingbird stage play and Harper Lee's original novel, and while Ray's film adaption of Sonar Kella doesn't take as many liberties as Sorkin did, it's extremely interesting to consider the fundamental differences in structure between prose vs film vs stage. Even the great director Satyajit Ray could not be precious with his own material in order to adapt it to screen. A thrilling side effect of these necessary changes is that the film unfolds a bit differently than the book, revealing scenes that were hidden in the book and accelerating others. In the book, the audience is as lost as Topse (our point of view). Yet in the film, the audience is quickly clued in to everything happening behind the scenes, and the fun of the story is watching the detective Feluda unravel it all. This serves the story especially well as a film adaption: Since the big reveal at the end of the book is revealed to the audience midway through the film, the film re-orients itself from mystery to suspense thriller, and becomes an exciting new experience that only adds to the book, but never detracts nor disappoints.

What's also great is that, even though this is the first Feluda film, the writing and acting are so natural that I actually thought there had more films prior and I had somehow made a mistake. Really authentic, successful worldbuilding.

I also really loved Ray's own score whenever it played (especially his villain theme)
Unfortunately, there were so many moments of superfluous silence that I wonder if hiring an assistant composer would have been worth it, just to help fill in some of the dead air.

Lastly, bonus points for Topse's Tintin books. It's great to see Ray acknowledge his inspirations.

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