Tag Archives: Гуцулы

New header image: Paradzhanov’s “Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors”

25 Nov

The new header image is a production still from the filming of Sergei Paradzhanov‘s Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors / Тіні забутих предків), 1965. This is one of my ten — or maybe even five — all-time favorite films. It’s a half Romeo and Juliet, half Wuthering Heights, full of eternal love, and cool stuff like frustrated desire, obsession and death.

The other pleasures this film offers is entirely ethnographic; Paradzhanov, a Soviet Armenian filmmaker from Tbilisi, Georgia, was completely enthralled with the material culture, music, languages, and human (especially male) beauty of the Caucasus and Anatolia. Elsewhere — probably when I’ve used pictures from his films as header images before — I’ve referred to him as an “our parts” pornographer. He really had a fetish for his cinematic object, and though we use “fetish”, usually, to describe something unhealthy, it might be better to just accept it as a point on the broader spectrum of object relations.

In Shadows… Paradzhanov moves from his home territory to the Ukrainian sub-ethnic group of the Hutsuls (Гуцулы/Гуцули), that live on the Ukrainian side of the Carpathian mountains in the far west of the country. (I’m sure his appreciation of male beauty was sated there as swell.) The Hutsuls have one of the most richest High Folk Civilizations of Europe: clothes, dance, music, handicrafts — they’re also the people that make those famous Ukrainian Easter eggs you might have heard tell of. In fact, Paradzhanov was kind of a prick when the film was being filmed: he would borrow heirloom items for the shoot from the local inhabitants and then never return them.

Shadows… may be my favorite Paradzhanov film. It’s his most cinematic film, meaning it has the most conventional visual and cinematic narrative — cinema comes from Greek kinema (κίνημα), which means movement. After Shadows…, which put him on the map cinematically, he turned to extreme long shots and extreme long takes of static tableaux; they’re beautiful, but sometimes they try even my patience.

For example, from Color of Pomegranates / Նռան գույնը / ბროწეულის ფერი / Цвет граната (1969):

…and The Legend of the Suram Fortress / ამბავი სურამის ციხისა (1985):

…and Aşık Kerib / აშიკ-ქერიბი (1988):

Color of Pomegranates in 1969 and The Legend of Suram Fortress in 1985What was he doing for twenty plus years? you ask. Well, he was arrested several times between 1973 and 1982, a period during which his previous films were prohibited, for “sexual crimes”, i.e. homosexuality, along with “rape and bribery” — probably trumped up charges. Only when censorship in the Soviet Union started to ease up during the Gorbachev years was Paradzhanov allowed to make films again.

The header photo is not a scene from Shadows… though. It’s a production still, a lovely photo of two Hutsul children watching the filming.

Here are the famous Easter eggs:

I’ll post a collection of cool Hutsul photos I came across in separate post.

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