Phantom India: The Impossible Camera
1969, France, Louis Malle, 52 min.
Presented in association with the Criterion Collection
Free to Members
The 1969 documentary Phantom India is Louis Malle’s seven-part portrait of India. It serves as an investigation into the country’s sociopolitical landscape, traditions, and people, as well as a furthering Malle’s self-discovery as a non-fiction filmmaker.
Largely a heightened meditation on the overarching theme of the epic -- the impossibility of viewer understanding within the cinematic framework of a documentary -- this first episode of Louis Malle's seminal documentary on India opens with glimpses of "westernized" Indian residents who demonstrate extreme influence by modern philosophical and political concepts such as communism.
Dissatisfied, and determined to find the "real India," Malle and his crew plunge deeper, photographing such indigenous events as a Hindu wedding, the celebration of Shiva, an Indian Catholic ritual performed in full drag, and a trip to the temple of Konarak. They also encounter and question two "hippie" Frenchmen who have dropped out of Western society and moved to India as wanderers.