Herb Shellenberger

Sergei Parajanov's The Color of Pomegranates (1968)
August 17, 2013
International House Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA, US

Part of Sergei Parajanov: Surrealist Poet of Soviet Cinema
Q+A with James M. Steffen, author of
The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov

Sergei Paradjanov’s baroque masterpiece The Color Of Pomegranates was banned in the Soviet Union for its religious sentiment and nonconformity to “Socialist realism.” A tirelessly outspoken campaigner for human rights, Parajanov was convicted on a number of trumped-up charges and sentenced to five years of hard labor in the gulag. A wave of protest from the international film community led to his release in 1978.

Aesthetically the most extreme film ever made in the USSR, Parajanov’s hallucinatory epic account of the life of the 18th century Armenian national poet, Sayat Nova, conveys the glory of what a cinema of high art can be like. Conceived as an extraordinarily complex series of painterly tableaux that recall Byzantine mosaics, the film is a dreamlike icon come-to-life with astonishing beauty and rigor. It evokes the poet’s childhood and youth, his days as a troubadour at the court of King Heraclius II of Georgia, his retreat to a monastery and his old age and death.

There has never been a film like this magical work. It fully justifies critic Alexei Korotyukov’s remark: “Paradjanov made films not about how things are, but how they would have been had he been God.”

The Color of Pomegranates, Sergei Parajanov, 1968, USSR, 35mm, 74'