At the time of its release in 1968, The Colour of Pomegranates, directed by renowned Armenian director Sergei Parajanov, was condemned and was seen as subversive and treacherous towards the principles of the Soviet Government. Subsequently Parajanov was arrested by Soviet Authorities and sent to a Siberian prison camp for the production of his films which were seen as disruptive. Nowadays Parajanov is seen as a master of Cinema, praised by directors worldwide such as Tarkovsky, Godard and Scorsese. His surreal biopic of 19th century poet, Sayat Nova, The Colour of Pomegranates is seen as one of Parajanov’s greatest works and is a visual collage of symbolic mysticism.
The Colour of Pomegranates was screened at Duke of York’s as part of this month’s Cine-City festival taking place in venues around Brighton. It also featured a live score by Juno Reactor, who created the soundtrack to The Matrix (1999). It is difficult to put into words exactly what The Colour of Pomegranates is about in terms of a conventional deconstruction of the films narrative. As it states undecidedly at the beginning ‘this film does not attempt to tell the life story of a poet’. Through this clarification it is possible to assume that Parajanov is not willing to assume the conventions of a typical narrative biopic. Instead The Colour of Pomegranates displays a tapestry of images based around chapters in Nova’s life.
To add to the dreamlike visual metaphors was the live underscore from electronic outfit, Juno Reactor. At points during the film, the subtle ambient warble and oscillations of synthesizers complemented the films ethereal qualities perfectly. Despite these moments, there were instances during the pseudo-eastern industrial techno rhythms where I felt like it would have been more fitting in Berghain, Berlin’s notorious hardcore techno club, rather than Brighton’s Duke of York’s Picturehouse.
The visual imagery that is on display in this contemplative piece is of subtle eastern mystic symbolism. Images of sacrificial killings, ritualistic ceremonies and meditative encounters are all utilized to construct this vivid and metaphysical visual poem. Through these abstract visuals it is possible to interpret the narrative as a metaphor for Nova’s relationship with his muse, who is shown at various points throughout. More specifically is the use of colour which is used to display this i.e. red to symbolise desire and lust. One of the most captivating elements of The Colour of Pomegranates is the manner in which it is framed. Rather than using tracking shots to display perspective, the camera remains static whilst the characters move towards and away from the frame. This stylised technique of cinematography seems to make the film more comparable to theatre or painting as it allows for constant shifts of perspective whilst remaining within a single shot. Although Parajanov suffered injustices to his human rights for a large portion of his life, it is some small consolation that he is remembered as one of the masters of cinema due to his mystical body of work.
By Ryan Bellett.