The Tiger of Eschnapur (Fritz Lang, 1959)
Fritz Lang returned to Germany to direct two films The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb, which together tell the story of a German architect (Paul Hubschmid), the Indian maharaja (Walter Reyer) for whom he is supposed to build schools and hospitals, and the Eurasian dancer (Debra Paget) who comes between them.
The Tiger of Eschnapur is the first part of what was supposed to be Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic. As they were released separately to be more audience accessible, the first part shows the encounter of Berger (Hubschmid) and Seetha (Paget) how they eventually fall in love while she was promised to the Maharaja. It potrays the tension of this love story and the Indian customs. However, the lack of Indian actors makes it less plausible and its Western point of view taints how we can compare it to an Indian picture.
It instead shows a bit of this culture with the superb performance of the sexy and beautiful Debra Paget as the dancer. It is interesting to note that the Hays office trimmed many minutes of the long dance sequence in the temple of the goddess. It is quite arousing and tastefully erotic. Lang’s way filming the dance sequences and the overall action scenes is breathtaking and his use of widescreen framing of spare and open sets is quite efficient using in his advantage the opulence and the beauty of the sets. There’s a great use of color film in The Tiger of Eschnapur and it is often that I would write this in a review but the film would have been quite different if it wasn’t for its rich colors and textures.
Much like my long time admiration for Jean Renoir’s The River, another film made by a Western director in India, there’s a sense of being able to capture bits of the foreign culture and translate it in a movie where central characters are westerners in a land where don’t fully understand but also are influenced by its feeling.
On a final note, I must add that I love films by outsiders of India filming in this country. Like the aforementioned The River or The Darjeeling Limited and even Slumdog Millionaire. There’s quite a fascination for us foreigners to this land where we are taken out of our comfort zone.
It is important to note that my upcoming review of The Indian Tomb will complete this review about The Tiger of Eschnapur as the first half of Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic.