Around The World In 100 Films – Armenia

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Not a country I would have expected to get to be honest. However, this movie, despite being a Soviet film, is Armenian down to the language used and the production company. So I’m going to count it as most people do.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 421/1007

Country: Armenia
Title: Sayat-Nova (The Color of Pomegranates)
Director: Sergei Parajanov
Year: 1968

I am not quite sure what I just watched, and yes I had the subtitles on. It is a film that is, basically, without any real narrative telling the story of the life of Armenian poet Sayat-Nova. Instead of a more traditional method of telling his life story as it was the director decided to tell it using images found in Sayat-Nova’s work. As a result, this is a film unlike any I have seen before.

The main thing to note, and this before I get into the good stuff, is the almost complete lack of dialogue. It feels a lot like a silent movie with the exception of some chanting and a few lines which end up being repeated. In fact, repetition happens fairly often at important moments during the film, like how a poet would repeat a certain refrain for the sake of emphasis.

Without dialogue the film is able to focus on the cinematography which is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. When stripped of regular language the focus is on creating a visual language which, for the most part, is incredibly subtle. There are no exaggerated movements as in the silent movies of old, everything is about the slight gesture and somewhat off-kilter movements. There is a scene where the poet as a youth is, I am guessing, flirting with the woman he is set to marry (both played by the same woman) and it is all the various covering of eyes with different pieces of material. It’s a bit weird but strangely intimate.

One scene I probably could have done without is when they are slaughtering lambs and you see them clearing out the offal and organs from within the corpses. Thankfully you don’t see the moment the throats are slit but you do see their severed heads. There are other moments of animal cruelty (I did not like the dying fish at the beginning) which do overshadow parts of the movie somewhat. Still, The Color of Pomegranates was certainly a feast for the eyes.


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