Scen.: Hamo Beknazaryan. F.: Sergej Zabozlaev. Int.: Ovanes Abelyan (Barchudar), Asmik (Mariam), Olga Maysuryan (Gul’naz), Grachya Nersesyan (Rustam), Avet Avetisyan (Ayrapet), Nina Manucharyan (Shpanik), Samvel Mkrtchan (Seyran), Maria Shakhubatyan-Tatieva (Susan), Ambartsum Khachanyan (Badal), Siranush Aleksanyan (Susambar), Ripsimiya Melikyan (Sanam), Amasy Martirosyan (Sumbat). Prod.: Goskinoprom Georgia, Gosfotokino Armenia. 35mm. L.: 1904 m. D.: 83’ a 20 f/s. Bn.
Namus was the first Armenian film to be released in June 1926 by the film studio of Gosfotokino in Armenia, in collaboration with the Goskinoprom of Georgia. The film, based on a novel by the Armenian writer Alexander Shirvanzade, describes the everyday life in a provincial town of Shamakhi during the 1860-70s, and the tragic events that result from the prejudices of pre-revolutionary Armenia. The plot evolves around the drama of the two young lovers who fall victim to the cruel and omnipotent adat, the traditional rules and laws. After extensive acting experience in pre-revolutionary Russian cinema, as well as experience directing film at the Georgian film studio, Hamo Beknazaryan became the first film director of the Republic of Armenia.
Namus became the first realistic Soviet film that portrayed the everyday life of the 19th century East. In contrast to the many examples of previous Oriental films, which were made in other countries, the director managed to avoid vulgarization and simplification of Eastern exoticism. On the contrary, Beknazaryan’s realism reaches its depth in such episodes as the wedding scene. In its depiction of an earthquake, for instance, the film even becomes a striking example of extreme naturalism. Some critics defined Namus as an ethnographic film, mainly because of its focus on the ancient customs and the old way of life. But for Beknazaryan the ethnographic material is only a background for the depiction of the national characters. Similarly, through the use of close-ups he highlights characteristic details in images of the Armenian people. The real, non-schematized portraits of Armenians with their gestures, facial expressions, habits, relationships appear on the film screen. One of the main advantages of the film, in the critics’ opinion, was the choice of the actors who mainly came from the national Armenian theatrical background. Beknazaryan combines good acting with cinematic techniques like cross-cutting and dissolves and the film surely benefits from the combination. On the one hand, it is a powerfully accurate image of reality, on the other, – a romantic love story.
The film enjoyed a tremendous success – to which the Moscow tobacco factory Java responded by the immediate introduction of a new popular cigarette brand called Namus. The film was released not only in the Soviet Union, but also in Europe, America and in the Middle East.
In the early 1930s the film was post-synchronized (according to the common practice in Soviet cinema) with specially written music by Armenian composers Nikoghayos Tigranyan, Sargis Barkhudaryan, Martyn Mazmanyan and with authentic folk music played on a traditional instrument, the zurna. Gosfilmofond holds two versions of Namus: the sound print with the original bilingual (Armenian and Russian) intertitles, plus a silent version, re-edited in 1938 at the Erivan film studio, with slightly modified intertitles. The recently rediscovered sound version of Namus with the Armenian musical accompagniment will be presented at the festival.