Սերգեյ Փարաջանով | ON THIS DAY

ON THIS DAY in 1924 (9 Jan) Sergei Parajanov was born. Born in Tiflis, he gained access to art from an early age. In 1945, he traveled to Moscow, enrolled in the directing department at the VGIK, one of the oldest and highly respected film schools in Europe, and studied under the tutelage of directors Igor Savchenko and Aleksandr Dovzhenko.

Of Armenian descent, he later rose to become one of the most notable film directors during the Soviet Union who made significant contributions to Soviet cinematography through Armenian, Ukrainian, and Georgian cinema. He invented his own cinematic style, which was totally out of step with the guiding principles of socialist realism (the only sanctioned art style in the USSR). This, combined with his controversial lifestyle and behaviour, led Soviet authorities to repeatedly persecute and imprison him, and suppress his films.

Among his most notable works is The Color of Pomegranates, which is a poetic treatment of the life of 18th-century Armenian poet and troubadour Sayat-Nova. It has appeared in some scholarly polls of the greatest films ever made. The Color of Pomegranates is a biography of the Armenian ashug Sayat-Nova (King of Song) that attempts to reveal the poet’s life visually and poetically rather than literally. The film is presented with little dialogue using active tableaux which depict the poet’s life in chapters: Childhood, Youth, Prince’s Court (where he falls in love with a tsarina), The Monastery, The Dream, Old Age, The Angel of Death and Death. There are sounds and music and occasional singing but dialogue is rare.

Each chapter is indicated by a title card and framed through both Sergei Parajanov’s imagination and Sayat Nova’s poems. Parajanov’s film celebrates the survival of Armenian culture in face of oppression and persecution, “There are specific images that are highly charged—blood-red juice spilling from a cut pomegranate into a cloth and forming a stain in the shape of the boundaries of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia; dyers lifting hanks of wool out of vats in the colours of the national flag, and so on.” Parajanov, the director, said his inspiration was “the Armenian illuminated miniature,” and that he “wanted to create that inner dynamic that comes from inside the picture, the forms and the dramaturgy of colour.” Sergei Parajanov is buried at the Komitas Pantheon in Yerevan.

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