The Color of Pomegranates (1968)

Sergei Parajanov ♦ 73 mins ♦ Biography ♦ Armenia

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Visual poetry. The phrase had been used and abused countless times that the power it once wielded has since faded into a noiseless buzzword in the vast ocean of subjectivity the Internet has created. But long ago, such a phrase would’ve been spot on description for Parajanov’s originally titled Սայաթ-Նովա (Sayat Nova) which was later changed to Նռան գույնը (Nran guyne) or The Color of Pomegranates in English due to censorship issues.

I won’t even try to describe what I saw in detail, for fear of failing to live up to such a grand and resplendent vision, its realization and the conditions in which Parajanov had to do these things. I’ll just link this better-worded review and go on to do what its critic-author said he will not: I will impose on you, dear readers, my own interpretation of this wild feast of colors and textures – and proudly too.

I admit that I was at a loss while watching the magnificent images fly on top of each other in patternless succession. The only elements that kept it all together for me were the occasional intertitles that quoted thematic passages from the troubadour’s works. But that did not help much, as some of you will also see when you get to watch it. They are as vague and cryptic as they are haunting and beautiful. And the images that complemented them never missed a step in that regard. They are striking, vivid and dramatic visual enigmas. How they managed to say a lot and give nothing away at the same time left me in awe.

What I did manage to absorb from this intricate yet ultimately telling gem is a loving tribute from one master to another, and to their common heritage. I saw not only the wordless offering of a man of fantastic sights for the vocabulary of emotions and imagery impressed upon him by a man of cadent words and songs, but, more importantly, a sublime and defiant show of Armenian heritage and culture in the face of severe Soviet censorship. The Color of Pomegranates then, in that regard, is not unlike the output of most brilliant Filipino film visionaries still struggling to rediscover a prematurely aborted sense of identity. And even if it’s just for that reason, I’d rather struggle watching films like this one than never have the opportunity to have my views challenged until it is too late.

Full Credits

Director: Sergei Parajanov | Producer: Sergei Parajanov | Writer: Sayat Nova (poems) Sergei Parajanov (writer) | Cast: Sofiko Chiaureli Melkon Alekyan Vilen Galstyan Giorgi Gegechkori | Camera: Suren Shakhbazyan | Music: Tigran Mansuryan | Editing: Sergei Parajanov M. Ponomarenko Sergei Yutkevich (censored version) | Production Design: Stepan Andranikyan | Art Direction: Sergei Parajanov | Set Decor: Mikael Arakelyan | Makeup: V. Asatryan P. Aschyan | Costume: Elene Akhvlediani I. Karalyan Zh. Sarabyan | Production Management: A. Melik-Sargsyan | Sound: Yuri Sayadyan | Production: Armenfilm Studios | Distribution: Cosmos Film (1982, France) International Film Exchange (1987, USA) Artkino Pictures (USA) |Year: 1968 | Length: 77′ (Parajanov cut) 73′ (Yutkevich cut) | Genre: Biography Art Film Auteur | Spoken Language: ? (I can’t verbally distinguish Armenian from Russian, sorry.) | Subtitles: Intertitles (Russian) DVD subtitles (English) | Country: Armenia

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