Based on a Caucasus Mountains legend that tells of the repeated efforts of the Georgian people to construct a fortress against invaders. The fortress continues to collapse until a fortune-teller recalls a prophecy: a handsome young man must be walled inside alive in order for the building to stand.
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If you try to view it as a conventional film it might be difficult to grasp it. If you instead watch it as an allegorical tale narrated with actors it is a truly mesmerizing piece, almost trance inducing with great visuals. Some might see it is an orientalist cash-grab, but for me it felt like an homage. BUT a real shame on MUBI for showing this dubbed, and horribly dubbed at that.
Although not as dazzling or spellbinding as Sayat Nova, his finest masterpiece IMHO; the costumes, the props, the gorgeous sets, and also the story, are still AH-MA-ZING! It's like a trip to a cultural museum once again, a Georgian cultural museum it is.
A chthonic legend about sacrifice for the community, and one that is encountered in the Balkans too, is what this perplexing yet ingenious film aims to convey in an other-worldy amalgam of poetic formalism. The breathtaking visuals, whether in the location shooting or as stylized tableaux, testify to the extraordinary craftmanship put here as if in lineage to the myths of the filmmakers' homeland. Promethean cinema!
Parajanov and co. evolved toward a refined and unique aesthetic, prizing still cameras and curiously baroque mise-en-scène. The effect is of a conjuring. There is a sense of black magic, of occult or pagan undertaking. THE LEGEND OF THE SURAM FORTRESS uses myth and folk history as a vehicle serving these ends. These films present an opulent bed of riches. Deliciously hallucinatory stuff!
Tableaux/mise-en-scene symbolically loaded as (Persian renaissance) tarot cards. A fairy tale; a fever dream; the saturated richness of the social imaginary. Insistently disrupts signifiers of identification; effects a suspension of disbelief right where disbelief was blocking access to the apprehension of magic; rails against simplification… of fact vs fiction; of cultures; of ages; of the production of meaning. 4.5