Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: The Shadows know: Parajanov's realist folktale masterpiece
Josef Braun / [email protected]

VUE Weekly
www.filmref.c om/directors/dirpages/paradjanov.html
April 17 2008

Great myths and folktales endure not on account of their
universality-which is beyond question-but on the capacity of our finest
storytellers to render them vividly, to renovate them according to
changing modes of expression, to bring a personal voice to them and
endow them anew with vivacity. Such stories speak of the business of
living in terms that transcend the limits of reason; thus, in 1964's
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Tini zabutykh predkiv), when one man
is suddenly driven to slay another, when a tormented, lonesome lover
allows himself to be carried writhing down rapids on a spindly raft
of lumber or when that same lover, now physically wounded, scavenges
the forest at night hoping to be enveloped by death as a means of
finding himself once again in his lover's embrace, the events feel
like the opposite of mere artifice.

They resonate as more truthful than what we generally refer to
as realism.

But then Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors-the artistic breakthrough
of Sergei Parajanov, a Georgian born to Armenian parents who had the
decidedly mixed fortune to find himself forging a career within the
Soviet film industry-has its finger on the pulse of myth like few
other films. The slaying of the man is followed by an enigmatic flash
of red horse silhouettes; the lover on the raft captured in a long,
unbroken, rapturous camera sweep; the search in the forest constructed
from close-ups of faces seemingly floating through a web of trees,
cheeks brushed by branches with near-palpable sensuality.

The tirelessly adventurous camerawork, care of the great Yuri Ilyenko,
a writer/director in his own right, is somehow at once delirious and
precise, full of low, creeping angles where foliage brushes the lens
and breaks up the frame; of careening flights through the collective
rituals of Carpathian village life; of scenes that at times resemble
some hallucinatory staged anthropological documentary. More than
four decades after the fact Shadows still feels vibrantly exotic,
a thing set apart, its particular poetry uncorrupted by the rest of
the world's culture of movies.

Screening as part of Metro's Ukrainian Film Festival, Shadows, set
in the early 19th century, is based on the book by Ukrainian writer
Mikhaylo Koysyubinskiy and functions as a carefully detailed window
into the daily life of the Hutsuls, the highland people who for
centuries have inhabited Ukraine, as well as the northern extremity
of Romania. The film is a sumptuous pageant of traditional costumes,
religious rites and iconography, strange, powerful music made with
impossibly long trumpets, and a dazzling array of elaborately groomed
moustaches. At its narrative centre is an ebullient variation on Romeo
and Juliet: Ivan (the deeply haunted Ivan Mikolajchuk) and Marichka
(Larisa Kadochnikova) grow from a childhood characterized by bloodshed
and blissful interaction with nature to an adulthood characterized by
harsh weather, hard work, adultery, sorcery, drunkenness and betrayal,
all the time concealing a forbidden love that slowly plunges into
morbid obsession, though finally proving itself to be even stronger
than mortal life.

The man at the helm of all this was reaching the height of his
talents and would subsequently feel the wrath of governmental forces
bent on punishing such vision as unacceptably decadent. While still
young, Parajanov showed great affinity with music and painting,
and both mediums heavily inform the sensibility at work in Shadows,
which possesses a compelling, lyrical fluidity broken by flutters
of striking frozen images, as well as a richness of colour and is
heightened by the movement of elements and animals.

This dialogue with other mediums is but one of numerous cinematographic
ingredients unmistakably mirrored in the contemporaneous films of
Andrei Tarkovsky, especially 1962's Ivan's Childhood, and it comes
as no surprise to discover that Parajanov and Tarkovsky were great,
mutually admiring friends who shared similar difficulties with
Soviet censorship and even died of the same disease. Like Ivan's
Childhood, Shadows fixates engagingly on horses, water and trees, and
its soundtrack seems always to return to a motif of voices calling
out names into vast landscapes. Unlike that of Tarkovsky, however,
Parajanov's approach is gifted with a willful, buoyant naïvete and
effervescent sense of freedom, moving effortlessly between broad
symbolism and an uninhibited, textured emotionality.

Though it deals in symbols and mysticism, it needs to be emphasized
that Shadows is grounded in feelings and experiences of tremendous
immediacy. In the end, Ivan's story is simply that of a man who,
even after settling into a potentially happy, normal life with a
sexy, loving wife, can't quite shake off the grips of the one that
got away. It's what distinguishes a film like Shadows from ones we
think of as fairy tale flicks, delighting viewers with its folkloric
spectacle and archetypical imagery while penetrating those murkier,
very adult feelings locked up inside us. Parajanov wasn't able to
make many films during his life, but the legacy of Shadows and its
follow-up The Colour of Pomegranates are alone enough to cement his
place among the most important filmmakers of cinema's first century.

Sat, Apr 19 (7 pm) Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors Directed by Sergei
Parajanov Written by Parajanov, Ivan Chendej, Mikhaylo Koysyubinskiy
Starring Ivan Mikolajchuk, Larisa Kadochnikova, Tatyana Bestayeva
Part of Metro's Ukranian Film Fest, Apr 17 - 20 (7 pm) SSSSS


From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress