15 February 2018



This is a most unusual film, not even a film at all in the accepted sense of the word but a series of images knitted together to form a cohesive narrative. It's generally accepted by critics that you won't follow any of it unless you've been given a bit of background first.

I went into it blind, as it were, which is the way I prefer to approach all the films I review, and I must admit I found it hard to understand. The imagery was so beautiful and rich, however, that I gradually gave up trying slavishly to follow the 'plot,' as it were, and just sat back and enjoyed the gorgeous pictures that unfolded one by one in front of my eyes.

Let me see if I can give you guys the bit of background information that's probably essential, in all fairness, to the full enjoyment and understanding of this Soviet film. The director himself is a controversial character, having been imprisoned in a labour camp in Soviet Russia (no easy way to pass the time, I'm guessing) for the crimes of rape, homosexuality and bribery. While in prison, Sergei Parajanov didn't waste his time creatively. He made miniature dolls and created about eight hundred drawings and collages, most of which I believe still exist today.

If I give you the names of some of the people who campaigned at the time for his release, it'll give you an idea of just how influential Parajanov's work was/is: Francoise Sagan, Yves Saint Laurent, Luis Bunuel, Andrei (SOLARIS, STALKER) Tarkovsky, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. That's an impressive line-up of artistes by anyone's standards.

Anyway, THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES was always going to be an artsy kind of film with a title like that, and artsy it is. Very much so, in fact. It tells the story of the eighteenth-century Armenian poet and musician, Sayat-Nova, but it doesn't tell it in the usual way, as a straightforward biography.

It uses music, sounds, hardly any dialogue and actors and actresses forming themselves into various tableaux to tell the story of Sayat-Nova's life in the following chapters: Childhood, Youth, the Prince's Court, The Monastery, The Dream, Old Age, The Angel of Death and, finally, Death. Although hundreds- if not thousands- of songs have been attributed to him (his name means King Of Songs in Persian), his life wasn't all plain sailing.

He was booted out of the King's Court for- ahem- falling in love with the King's sister, a terrible breach of protocol and so not the done thing if you're dependent on the King for your life, your livelihood and your liberty. As if this wasn't bad enough, he was eventually executed by beheading (yikes!) for refusing to convert from Christianity to Islam when the Shah of Iran invaded Armenia, as is my understanding, anyway. Not a nice way to go, I think you'll agree.

Anyway, the gorgeously-coloured images and tableaux in Parajanov's film attempt to recreate the poet's life in a most visually lavish and innovative way. It would be pretty difficult to describe word-for-word exactly what's going on in each frame, so I made a series of notes which might help with that. Here, for what it's worth, dear readers, are my impressions and jottings, interspersed with quotes from the film and the poems of Sayat-Nova:

'Books must be well-kept and read.' (I couldn't agree more...!)
Wet books. The sound of water splashing, water splashing, water splashing.
White chickens red with blood. 
White-washed walls.
The boy with the expressive brown eyes is anointed with the chickens' blood.
Their huts look like craters on the moon.
A man washes the suds off another man.
A perfect shell sits on a female breast. Water runs over both.
A man washes blue paint off other men. 
Peacock feathers.
'We were searching for ourselves in each other.'
The pages of an ancient book flutter.
The androgynous face with the fabulous brown almond-shaped eyes.
A black-haired woman dances to a drum-beat near a statue of the Virgin Mary.
'In this healthy and beautiful life, only I have been made to suffer. Why is it so?'
Red embroidered rugs with the most intricate of patterns.
A woman teases a lion cub with a stick.
A peacock puts his beak on a man's mouth.
'We were searching for a place of refuge for our love, but instead the road led us to the land of the dead.'
'You abandoned us and went away but we, the living, wrapped you in a cocoon so that, in your new life, you would burst forth like a butterfly.'
A mummified body. 
Little brick houses.
Monks eat red pomegranates noisily and lustily.
Monks bathe other monks' feet.
Monks tread grapes. What a squishy sound they make!
A baby boy is baptised. 
Angelic choirboys sing.
Sheep crowd around a funeral bier where a man of some religious importance lies.
'Grief has been sent to us from Heaven.' (Um, can we send it back at all, swap it for something else maybe, something a bit less miserable, say?)
A man digs a grave.
A nun hangs a robe on a donkey.
Women parade magnificently-embroidered rugs through an ancient crypt, following a monk who could pass for Jesus.
A couple hold up a large pitta bread from which the boy with the expressive eyes tears a piece and eats it. Now the couple is tearing apart hunks of sheeps' wool. (Sayat-Nova was a wool-dyer in his youth.) A terrible wind blows through them.
A monk on a roof with a sheep. (No jokes now, please!)
Seven monks disrobe in the outdoors, their hands held palm-up to the heavens.
Men with scythes are scything.
Three rams are slaughtered while three men watch.
'The meat is boiled and distributed onto seven plates.'
The three rams' severed heads sit on a shelf.
'As long as I live, my life is all yours, my love.
'My suffering has gone beyond measure.' (Sayat-Nova)
The ruined outlines of an Abbey.
A beautiful woman drenches the monk who could pass for Jesus with blood, all over his white robes.
The monk, his robes white once more, lies down on the ground amongst the candles.
'The world is a window.'

THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES arrives in a Limited Edition Blu-Ray Box-set on 19th February 2018, courtesy of SECOND SIGHT FILMS. A second disc contains numerous excellent special features, including a one-hundred-and-fourteen-page limited edition book featuring an introduction by Martin Scorsese, archive material, new writings, costume designs, storyboards and original literary script.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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