Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Colour of Pomegranates

If you thought I'd been watching a bit too much main-stream lately, here's something to redress the balance!

For a few years I once had the privilege of working with some Azeri folk whose people group inhabit North-West Iran and Azerbaijan. One thing that constantly struck me was the importance they placed on and the cultural identity they derived from their national poets such as Nizami, Imadeddin Nassimi and Mohammed Suleymanoglu Fizuli. The Colour of Pomegranates is imbued with similar sentiment but is a film about the life and writings of the Eighteenth-centuryArmenian poet Aruthin Sayadian who was known as Sayat-Nova. The film was made in 1968 by the celebrated Soviet Director Sergei Parajanov and has only recently come to DVD.

I'm not sure how to proceed from here! On the surface, this film is simply a collection of abstract images and tableaux, narrated by rudimentary sub-titles that seek to tell Sayat-Nova's life story and encapsulate the essence of his poetry. Perhaps the film is visual poetry and as such it makes unusual viewing. It's not easy to follow, interpret or understand as so much of the visual imagery and clues the film delivers are lost on non-Armenians. This film is almost universally lauded by the critics - indeed the IMDb 'storyline' description begins "One of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century"! I watched it because I felt I should watch a film given such accolades. It took two bites to get through the 70 minutes, but I'm glad I did - if only to be reminded that in other parts of the world there are things that are more important than the stuff that fills our headlines.

I don't pretend to understand much of the film - or invest the energy in trying to do so. If you want to read a helpful unpicking of the visual keys and plot have a look at Senses of Cinema an Australian website that has a useful article.

Every now and again it is good to watch something that takes us to unfamiliar places and see what questions it provokes. This film has a strong Armenian-Orthodox strand running through it and it is interesting to see how the Church and a Monastery are linked in to the unfolding story.

This is definitely Art-House rather than multiplex - perhaps a good single malt would help?

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