This heady, avant-garde cinematic reverie depicts the life of highly acclaimed 18th-century Armenian poet and musician Sayat-Nova (Vilen Galstyan) from childhood to his death, particularly focussing on his relationships with women. Glowing in a new bluray release, the sumptuously fantastical visual poem is said to serve as a metaphor for Parajanov’s own life. It was only officially seen in western cinemas in 1982 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece by cinephiles and critics alike. The director – who was to spend a large part of his creative life behind bars on account his sexuality and political beliefs – had spent the intervening years in prison with the authorities re-editing and diminishing his prized work.
Sergei Parajanov was influenced by Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Dovzhenko and his highly stylised and dreamlike film blends new techniques such as the use of jump-cuts with exquisite tableaux often seen in silent film to tell a story drenched in ancient Armenian art and folklore, and opening with a quote from a poem crafted by Sayat Nova: “I am he whose life and soul are torment”. His major contribution to the world of cinema was in raising the profile of his non-Russian Soviet heritage of Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine.
Parajanov was born in Soviet Georgia of Armenian parents in 1924 and started life as a musician before discovering film-making at the famous Soviet Russian All-Union State Institute of Cinematography film school in Moscow. He married in 1950 but his wife was sadly murdered the following year, possibly by her family on the grounds of religious scruples. A second marriage ended in divorce and precipitated a disenchantment with his own film oeuvre when he saw how Andrei Tarkovsky made use of dreams to present allegory in his extraordinary debut Ivan’s Childhood (1962).
In Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1964) Parajanov once again depicts ancient traditions through a tragic but magical tale of doomed love set in the exotic wilds of the Carpathians.
In Pomegranates, Sofiko Chiaureli is cast in five both male and female roles, underlining Parajanov’s attitude to non-binary sexuality and artistic freedom. He then made two more films sealing his international success on the film stage, allowing him to travel abroad and embark on his final auto-biographical project Confession, before dying of cancer in 1990. MT
THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES | SPECIAL EDITION BLURAY FROM 19 February 2018 | COURTESY OF SECOND SIGHT DVD.