T . it .: Il colore del melograno . T . int .:The Color of Pomegranates . Scen .: Sergej Paradžanov . F .: Suren Šachbazjan . M .: Marija Ponomarenko . Scgf .: Stepan Andranikjan, Michail Arakeljan . Cos .: Elena Achvledjani, Iosif Karalov, Jasmine Sarabjan . Mus .: Tigran Mansurjan . Int .: Sofiko Čiaureli (il Poeta da giovane/l’amata del Poeta/la monaca in pizzo bianco, l’Angelo della Resurrezione/il mimo), Melkon Alekjan (il Poeta da bambino), Vilen Galustjan (il Poeta monaco), Georgij Gegečkori (il Poeta anziano), Hovannes (Onik) Misasjan (il Re), Spartak Bagašvili (il padre del Poeta), Medea Džaparidze (la madre del Poeta), Grigorij Margarjan (il maestro di Sayat Nova) DCP . D .: 77’ . Col .
Watching Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates, or Sayat Nova, is like opening a door and walking into another dimension, where time has stopped and beauty has been unleashed. On a very basic level, it’s a biography of the Armenian poet Sayat Nova, but before all else it’s a cinematic experience, and you come away remembering images, repeated expressive movements, costumes, objects, compositions, colors. Sayat Nova lived in the 18th century, but the look and movement of the film seem to have come out of the middle ages or an even earlier time: Parajanov’s cinematic tableaux feel like they’ve been carved in wood or stone, and the colors seem to have naturally materialized from the images over hundreds of years. There’s nothing else quite like this picture.
For many years, it’s been a dream to see Sayat Nova restored to the form originally intended by Parajanov. This restoration represents years of painstaking work by many people. As always, I would like to thank our colleagues and partners at the Cineteca di Bologna and L’Immagine Ritrovata as well as all the individuals and organizations who have supported this challenging project and dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy to preserve Parajanov’s oeuvre.
Sayat Nova remains Sergei Parajanov’s richest work: a poetic fantasy on the Armenian troubadour (ashugh) Sayat Nova (ca. 1712-1795), who wrote lyrics in three languages – Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian. At once austere and sensual, the film uses painterly tableaux, pantomime, handcrafted artifacts, and authentic locales to celebrate the creative spirit of Transcaucasia. The best-known of all Armenian films, its radical aesthetic has inspired directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, as well as several music videos.
Parajanov structured his original script, entitled Sayat Nova, as a series of “miniatures” evoking the pictorial and narra- tive principles of Armenian and Persian miniature painting. The episodes depict the poet’s monastic education; his childhood inspiration from the sights, sounds, and smells of his native city of Tbilisi; the court of the Georgian king Erekle II and the poet’s love for Princess Anna; his retreat to a monastery; nostalgic dreams of his past life; and his death and apotheosis as the voice of the people.
The version presented here is the Armenian release version, which premiered in Yerevan in October 1969. It was the result of numerous compromises with the Soviet censors, including their demand that Parajanov change the film’s title and remove all references to Sayat Nova and his poetry from the chapter titles, since they felt that the film treated the poet’s life too capriciously. The famed Armenian writer Hrant Matevosyan wrote new, poetic titles that set the tone for each chapter, even if they made the film more difficult for first-time viewers. Still, this version represents the closest thing we have to Parajanov’s eccentric, at times bawdy, yet profound vision for the film.
Alexei Romanov, the head of Goskino USSR, allowed Sayat Nova to be shown in Armenia, but he openly disliked the film and initially refused distribution in the rest of the Soviet Union and abroad. The film director Sergei Yutkevich admired the film and wanted it to be more widely seen, so he recut it slightly – including the camera negative – to overcome the impasse with Goskino. Yuktevich wrote new chapter titles to clarify the film’s plot and he even restored some of Sayat Nova’s poetry, but he also arbitrarily rearranged some sequences and excised some of the film’s more delightfully outré imagery. For all its challenges, the Armenian release version gives us a more direct line into Parajanov’s mind.