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A film version of a well-known Georgian folk-tale. A young boy has to be immured into the walls of a fortress in order to stop it from crumbling to pieces. Written by
Jonathon Dabell <J.D.@pixie.ntu.ac.uk>
Tonight's film course film was The Legend of the Suram Fortress and during its 87 minute running time it managed to quickly jump into my top five most difficult films of all time. That's difficult to watch; films so different to everything else that you're seeing something totally alien. A brief synopsis would be: a group of Georgians are trying to build a fortress to defend themselves from invaders, but every time they are about to put on the finishing touches, for no readily apparent reasons it collapses. So they go and see a fortune teller who advises them that if they want to get the fortress to stay standing, they need to find a youth, a tall blonde blue eyed boy to be buried into one of the walls during the construction and his presence will ensure that the construction job will be completed smoothly. And sure enough in those closing moments there he is gladly being smeared in cement and eggs, giggling as he's buried alive, with only his mother to grieve.
It actually a fairly simple story. But the director, Sergo Paradjanov, working in Soviet Georgia in 1984, not too long after leaving a fifteen year jail term, doesn't follow any of the film making rules we are used to. There are very few close ups. Very often the action we need to be following is hidden in the bottom left hand corner of a landscape shot, extra-ordinarily easy to miss. There are very few close ups and at times its hard to tell whose doing what to whom and why. Every now and then the film goes off on digressions which have no relevance to the main plot and generally serve to confuse the viewer. The music is utterly mad, with found sounds, on screen instruments and church organ dropped in seemingly at random. At times when nothing seems to be happening, someone will break into a jig, almost playing time until the next scene comes along. But infuriatingly there is an obvious cinematic voice behind it all so you're compelled to try and understand the message whatever it is. One of those times when your eyes are glued to the screen simply because you can't believe what you're seeing.
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