Sergei Parajanov (Sarkis Parajanian), Master Film Director

Sergei Parajanov (Sarkis Parajanian), Master Film Director

“In the temple of cinema, there are images, light and reality. Sergei Parajanov was the master of that temple.” - Jean-Luc Goddard

Who he was

Sergei Parajanov was among the most acclaimed directors of the Soviet Union and is a prominent figure in cinematic history. His esotericism and devotion to art shaped the vivid imagery of his films, for which he gained international repute.

Born in Tiflis (modern-day Tbilisi) in the Soviet Union, Parajanov was the son of two Armenian parents. He was an artist and the inner pang to express himself was not limited to the screen. He was outspoken in his criticism of Soviet authorities, either straightforwardly lambasting them or subtly but clearly doing the same. As a consequence of his obstinate insubordination, Parajanov was variably censured and many of the scripts he submitted for approval were rejected on dubious, likely political, grounds. 

Parajanov’s piece de resistance was “The Color of Pomegranates,” which told the story of the Armenian bard Sayat Nova. It would be his masterpiece, as well as a film that would change the course of his life. The film was rich in expressions of Armenian national identity and, although it could not be discerned that Parajanov chose the imagery in his film as a matter of nationalistic sentiment, the film was cut, censored and released by Soviet authorities as a shadow of the original work. He was subsequently imprisoned, charged with a litany of crimes and spent four years in a gulag.  

Following his release, Parajanov lived, for a time, a life of ignominious destitution for such a famed artist. It was only after reconnecting with old friends that he was able to start working again. He released two more films, “The Legend of Suram Fortress” and “Ashik Kerib,” before he died. 

Interesting fact

While imprisoned in the gulag, Parajanov was required to sew sacks. He began to make dolls out of the scrap cloth and one of the dolls he sewed was of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Learn more about him

Sergei Paradjanov: film-maker of outrageous imagination

Parajanov-Vartanov Institute