The former Soviet Union brings me the next title to watch from DK Canada’s The Movie Book. It recommended the brilliant science fiction film Stalker, and then suggest this one in the What Else to Watch list.
The film is a super-stylized retelling of the life of the Armenian poet, Sayat Nova, using lines from his poetry to tell his tale. We follow the medieval poet through his youth, and his manhood to his death, but it is all told in a unique way.
Using tableaux and heavy, heavy imagery and symbolism, the film is a beauty to behold, but I can quite happily admit that I didn’t always understand or follow it. It eschews the need for the common narrative and instead moves from moment to moment in a unique, beautifully staged way.
That being said, this is more an experiential, cinematic presentation as opposed to a storytelling experience. Parajanov does a masterful job creating his images, and overseeing almost all aspects of production, from directing and writing to costumes, set design, and the odd, near machine-like choreography that put me in mind of old wind up toys and cuckoo clocks.
Even if I didn’t understand it all, I can admit that it is lovely to look at, and from time to time I was able to glean something from performances, symbols and tableaux. It makes for a very unique way of telling a story, and a most unusual watch.
But that is the beauty of world cinema, not everything is going to be the same from region to region, there are different ways to tell a story, there are different meanings placed on different themes and objects. And thus, we can always learn by introducing ourselves to film outside of our culture.
And while I tend to slip more easily into Asian cinema, there are some Eastern European films that have caught my attention, and intrigued me by the storytelling manner there. Paramount among them are recognizable titles like Solaris and Stalker, but there are so many others discovered, and yet to be found.
So while I won’t be singing the praises of this film from the hilltops, I do recognize its inherent beauty and the craftsmanship that went into it.
And that is also the beauty of DK Books’ The Movie Book, it introduces you to films you may have never heard of, or thought of watching before, but if you take the chance, pick a copy up and dive in, it can open your mind.
Find a new classic to watch tonight!