The River

Jean Renoir’s first colour feature is the tale of an adolescent girl living with her English family on the banks of the Ganges during the waning years of British colonial life.

Winner of the International Prize at Cannes in 1951.

Jean Renoir’s intoxicating first colour feature – shot entirely on location in India – is an adaptation of Rumer Godden’s autobiographical coming-of-age tale of an adolescent girl living with her English family on the banks of the Ganges during the waning years of British colonial life.

Exquisitely shot in luminous Technicolor by Renoir’s nephew Claude, The River is a visual tour de force and a glorious, meditative tribute to the sights and sounds of Indian culture.

Its central character (and the film’s narrator) is 14-year-old Harriet (Patricia Walters), the eldest of five children. Harriet and her beautiful, slightly older friend Valerie (Adrienne Corri) experience the intensity of first love when Captain John (Thomas E Breen) comes to stay with their neighbours, a mixed-race family with a daughter, Melanie (Radha), of similar age. Captain John, who has lost a leg in active service, captivates the three teenagers, each of whom develops romantic feelings towards this heroic and enigmatic young man.

Perhaps Renoir’s most symbolic and spiritual film, displaying great humanity and refreshing simplicity, The River received tremendous international acclaim and remains one of his most popular films.

Special features

  • Specially commissioned filmed introduction to The River by Indian filmmaker Kumar Shahani.
  • Seven rarely-seen short films set in India (1899-1945), preserved in the BFI National Archive. Among them are two silent films showing the changes in jute production and two 1930s films photographed in Technicolor by British cinematographer Jack Cardiff.
  • Fully illustrated 24-page booklet including film essay and Rumer Godden interview by David Thompson, director biography and notes on the seven short films.

Product information

    • Certificate

      U

    • Colour

      Colour

    • Sound

      Sound

    • Running time

      99mins

    • Languages

      English

    • Subtitles

      English for the hard-of-hearing

    • Original aspect ratio

      1.33:1

    • DVD region

      • 2 Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, French Overseas departments and territories

    • Catalogue number

      BFIVD619

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