Lester James Peries

T. Ing.: The Changing Village; Scen.: Reggie Slriwardena; F.: William Blake; Mo.: Sumitra Gunawardana; Mu.: W.D. Amaradeva; Int.: Wickrema Bogoda (Tissa), Gaminifonseka (Jinadasa), Punya Hiendeniya (Nanda), Henry Jayasena (Pryal Weliweli), Gunawardena Trelicia (Anula); Prod.: Cinelanka 35mm. D.: 105′. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

[Lester James Peries] wrote the screenplays himself of these first two films [Rekava, 1956, and Sandesaya, 1960]. For the third one, in 1963, he adapted the first part of a trilogy, Gamperaliya (l.t. transformation of a village, sometimes mentioned with the English title A Family Chronicle). This film has a grace to it that shall live on as the filmmaker’s hallmark. The story is about a family of ‘walauwe’ at the beginning of the century in a southern province of Sri Lanka: these vast villas that will soon lose their splendor are inhabited by an upper caste whose rigidity eventually cracks. Lester James Peries once again shot on location, exterior and interior scenes (there were no interior scenes in Rekava). Colombo studios could not supply the crew with projector lights for lighting the house scenes, and William Blake, director of photography for two shorts and six feature length films by Lester James Peries, said that it was only due to the arrival of super sensitive film that they got away with using just a two-thousand watt projector lamp and four floods.

The photography work in Gamperaliya is very elaborate: when a scene takes place inside you can see the surrounding landscape off in the distance through the window; if a traveling pot seller or a farmer arrives while the main characters are talking in the foreground, their arrival is filmed during the entire conversation, and the same as they are going away until they reach the property’s end. Even everyday situations have a magical air to them: the heroine, as she is taking a break during a long pilgrimage, hears the text of a letter read by her husband’s voice off screen; she is near a fire, and its smoke blurs the arrival of a wanderer, evoking the silhouette of her absent husband. (…) The changes of this setting between two ages, two centuries, two cultures, where women wear European-like white lace bodices with long Sri Lankan cotton skirts, are depicted by Lester James Peries in a range of subtle shades, like a sfumato painting in which the scenes echo one another. (…) Fixed by social obligations, the characters experience conflicts that the director presents with complete understanding.

Isabelle Jordan, À la découverte de Lester James Peries, “Positif”, n. 235, October 1980

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Restored thanks to Pierre Rissient