Introduced by Alice Rawsthorn.
A recent 4K digital restoration by Cineteca di Bologna and The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project.
One of the most daringly experimental films ever made (and produced in pre-Glasnost USSR, where it was quickly banned), Parajanov’s tribute to the Armenian poet Sayat Nova rethinks the very nature of cinematic space. Woven patterns and colours of traditional textiles and customs provide him with a different visual model. The way in which clothing sculpts and defines the body, creating a space neither flat nor deep but attuned to both the senses of touch and vision, inspires the discontinuous tableaux that make up this film. Textures and colours spill across each other as space dissolves into a succession of surfaces and shapes. Figures, gestures, textiles, costumes, and architecture merge in a shallow but endlessly varied space. Woven and embroidered textiles mould or conceal bodies and space in the rituals of birth and death that compose a film that seems to emanate from another world.
Soviet Union, Armenia 1969. Dir Sergei Parajanov. With Sofiko Chiaureli, Melkon Alekyan & Vilen Galstyan. Costumes by Elene Akhvlediani, I. Karalyan & Zh. Sarabyan.
Watching Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates … 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.
Alice Rawsthorn is a design critic and author of Hello World: Where Design Meets Life. She is chair of the board of trustees of Chisenhale Gallery and Michael Clark Company, and a trustee of Whitechapel Gallery.