Sergei Paradzhanov - Director

Nationality: Soviet Georgian. Born: Tiflis (Tbilisi), Soviet Georgia, 1924. Transliterations of name include "Paradjanov" and "Parajanov." Education: Kiev Conservatory of Music, 1942–45; studied under Igor Savchenko at Moscow Film Institute (V.G.I.K.), graduated 1951. Family: Married Svetlana (Paradzhanova), early 1950s (divorced after 2 years), one son. Career: Began as director at Kiev Dovzhenko Studio, 1953; following international success of Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors , ten filmscripts rejected by authorities through 1974; indicted for a variety of crimes, convicted of trafficking in art objects, sentenced to six years hard labor, 1974; released after international and Russian protests to Supreme Soviet, 1978. Awards: British Film Academy Award for Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors , 1966. Died: In Yerevan, of cancer, 20 July 1990.

Films as Director and Scriptwriter:


Moldavskaia skazka ( Moldavian Fairy Tale ) (short)


Andriesh (co-d)


Pervyi paren ( The First Lad )


Ukrainskaia rapsodiia ( Ukrainian Rhapsody )


Tsvetok no kamne ( Flower on the Stone )


Dumka ( The Ballad )


Teni zabytykh predkov ( Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors ) (co-sc)


Sayat nova ( The Color of Pomegranates ; The Blood of the Pomegranates ) (released 1972)


Achraroumès ( Retour à la vie )


Legenda o Suramskoj kreposti ( The Legend of the Suram Fortress )


Arabeski na temu Pirosmani (doc)


Ashik kerib


By PARADZHANOV: articles—

"Perpetual Motion," and " Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors ," in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1968.

Interview with H. Anassian, in Le Monde (Paris), 27 January 1980.

Interview with M. Vartanov, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1986.

Interview with C. Tesson, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1988.

Interview with B. Steinborn, in Filmfaust , vol. 15, July-October 1990.

Interview with Ronald Holloway, in Filmrutan (Sundsvall, Sweden), vol. 39, no.1, 1996.

On PARADZHANOV: articles—

Marshall, Herbert, "The Case of Sergo Paradjanov," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1974/75.

Liehm, Antonin, "A Certain Cowardice," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1975.

"Film Names Bid Soviets Be Kind to Paradzhanov," in Variety (New York), 17 November 1976.

Fargier, J.P., "Libérons Paradjanian," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), August/September 1977.

Grenier, Richard, "A Soviet Filmmaker's Plight," in the New York Times , 16 July 1981.

Barsky, V., "Uber Sergj Paradschanow und seine Filme," in Filmfaust (Frankfurt), October/November 1985.

Stanbrook, Alan, "The Return of Paradjanov," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1986.

"Ukrainian Rhapsody—Sergei Paradjanov," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), November 1986.

Williamson, A., "Prisoner: The Essential Paradjanov," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1989.

Rayns, Tony, " Ashik kerib ," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), September 1989.

Alekseychuk, Leonid, "A Warrior in the Field," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1990/91.

Obituary, in Cinéma (Paris), September 1990.

Obituary, in EPD Film (Frankfurt/Main), vol. 7, September 1990.

Olofsson, A., "Bara en forbanned filmmakare," in Chaplin ( Stockholm ), vol. 32, 1990.

Kopanevora, G., "Dilo a osud Sergeje Paradžanova," in Film Dope (Nottingham), December 1990.

Alekseychuk, L., "A Warrior in the Field," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 55, Winter 1990–1991.

Picchi, M., "L'arte globale nelle forme espressive di Paradznov," in Cinema Nuovo (Rome), vol. 42, July-October 1993.

Kuncev, G., and others, in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no 8, August 1995.

* * *

The cinema, like heaven, has many mansions, and the place occupied by Sergei Paradzhanov is a very rich one indeed. This dissident, highly individual film creator made films startling in their beauty, deeply imbued with ethnic consciousness, as unique in their style as, say, the work of Miklos Jancsó.

Paradzhanov was unmistakably a dissident. Not for him the systematic social realism of the authorities. Like his distinguished predecessors Eisenstein and Dovzhenko, it was the poetry of life that he sought. His films must be taken in their totality, for the cumulative effect is stunning. His beautiful images, created with the eye of a painter, while striking in themselves, progress with the steady tempo of tableaux vivants.

When Paradzhanov's Teni zabytykh predkov (Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors) burst upon world screens, it was quite evident that a major artist had appeared in Soviet cinema. This film, more flexible than his later stylized creations, revealed a powerful individuality. A tale of life in an ancient Carpathian village, it revealed also a sensitive feeling for nature and landscapes and an awareness of religious forces as it probed into the recesses of the inherited mind.

It was inevitable that Paradzhanov's work would not be appreciated by lesser men. He was uncompromising even when pressures and persecution pursued him. His personal lifestyle and his dogged pursuit of an ideal made him a marked man for bureaucratic tyranny, and after his Sayat nova (The Colour of Pomegranates) was completed in 1972 he was driven from the cinema. He was sentenced to six years in a labour camp for charges ranging from homosexuality and fraud to incitement to suicide. After several years under duress, world opinion forced the Soviet authorities to release him. He knew shame and beggary until with great determination he won his way back to making films once more.

The Colour of Pomegranates (or The Blood of the Pomegranates ) evokes the life of the eighteenth-century Armenian poet Arution Sayadian. In it the images are almost an embarras de richesses. The bleeding pomegranates, the struggling fish, details of utensils and native crafts, the boy swinging from the bellrope, pages of hundreds of books blown in the wind, the stately horseman parading back and forth, and the blazing colours of textiles in the dye-works scene pile up in a series of unforgettable impressions.

More sombre in tone is the Legenda o Suramskoj kreposti (The Legend of the Suram Fortress) , made in 1984 when Paradzhanov returned to the Georgian Film Studio. It is again a series of episodes integrated in mood and feeling and characteristically poetic in approach. His last film, Ashik kerib , is suitably dedicated to Tarkovsky and tells the tale of a Turkish minstrel and his frustrated love. Again rich images prevail and the idiosyncratic style persists.

Paradzhanov was a poet of the Eastern Soviet Republics. A Georgian, born in Tiflis, he was steeped in the culture and traditions of his native region. His concern with its past was the source of his creative strength and his independence of mind. He lived, thankfully, to see repressive forces at least temporarily dissipated, bringing freedom to himself as an artist. Yet it is a great pity that in the West he is known by only a few, if important, key films. The future will no doubt bring a greater knowledge of his work.

—Liam O'Leary

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

Other articles you might like: