The Color of Pomegranates (Sayat Nova), 1968

The Color of Pomegranates conveys the life of Sayat Nova, an Armenian troubadour, through lyrical, poetic, and beautifully constructed imagery. But how does one begin to describe the viewing experience of such an iconoclastic film? After all, Sergei Paradjanov is fundamentally an artist, experimenting with film as a moving canvas. In contrast to the minimalist, unembellished films of neorealism and cinema verite, The film reflects Paradjanov’s interpretive, highly idiosyncratic view of cinema as a medium of high art where the sole reality lies in conveying emotional truth. Stripped of plot and character dialogue, what remains is an abstruse, fragmented visual narrative. Sayat Nova’s life is presented in tableaux form, silent and rigid, composed of indelible, carefully constructed images: a young boy cultivating a love for literature, his apprenticeship at a rug manufacturer, his discovery of the female form at a local bath house. The film’s repeated, monotonic opening passage from Sayat Nova’s own writings: “I am the man whose life and soul are torture”, resonates through the film, creating a sense of wandering and despair. There is a glimpse of a great love that ends in tragedy. Episodically, Sayat Nova’s restlessness is reflected in his transitory vocations: a rug weaver, a court minstrel, a cloistered monk. Inevitably, The Color of Pomegranates paints a visually sublime and intoxicating portrait of a tortured artist. That the name of the artist is Sayat Nova, and not Sergei Paradjanov, is a revelation.

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