The Color of Pomegranates (Sayat Nova)
Sergei Paradjanov's first feature since Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1964) traces the life of a great 18th-century Armenian poet and monk, Sayat Nova, through his writings, and presents in daringly symbolic imagery the history and heritage of the Armenian nation and people - a history which includes Turkish genocide, Persian invasions, and a vast migration to the Russian section in the early 20th century; a heritage which includes iconography, ceremony, architectural styles drawn from the bible, color symbology (the color of pomegranates...)....
Add to the history this film, which was shown in Soviet theaters for two weeks and then banned when its symbolism was “decoded,” the director sentenced to five years imprisonment for various unrelated charges. A Western adaptation (a partial restoration of the Soviet censored print) made the rounds of the Paris film clubs, and created a reaction which led to the eventual release of Paradjanov from the prison camps. (Paradjanov is at present under house arrest and forbidden to work.)
A 1970 production of the Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijan studios in the Soviet Union, The Color of Pomegranates was shown at Cannes in 1978, and recently at the 1980 New York Film Festival. Writing for its U.S. premiere in March 1980 at the Festival of Film and Human Rights in Chicago, Jean Vidal explains, “In whatever version - the original or its various adaptations - The Color of Pomegranates is a difficult film to understand, because its director could not express himself freely. There are as many symbols as there are takes. One example: Three piles of wool - red, blue, and orange - fall onto the scale of the dyer, father of Sayat Nova. These are the colors of the Armenian flag....” Variety called the film “an exotic and mystical mosaic, all the more sensual and relevant because the poet-monk Sayat Nova was killed during one of the Persian invasions.”