Sayat Nova (Color of Pomegranates)  (1968)





Director:     Sergei Paradjanov.

Starring:     Sofiko Chiaureli (Poet as a Youth / Poet's Love / Poet's Muse / Mime / Angel of Resurrection), Melkon Alekyan (Poet as a child), Vilen Galstyan (Poet in the cloister), Giorgi Gegechkori (Poet as an old man), Spartak Bagashvili (Poet's father), Medea Japaridze (Poet's mother), Hovhannes Minasyan (Prince), Onik Minasyan (Prince).

Language:  Armenian (English subtitles). 

life of Armenian poet Aruthin Sayadin (a.k.a. Sayat-Nova) (1712-1795)



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"This film does not attempt to tell the life story of a poet.  Rather, the film maker has tried to recreate the poet's inner world through the trepidations of his soul, his passions and torments, widely utilizing the symbolism and allegories specific to the tradition of Medieval Armenian poet-troubadours (Ashough)."

"I am the man whose life and soul are torture."

"Books must be well kept and read,, for books are Soul and Life.  Without books, the world would have witnessed nothing but ignorance."

As a young boy Aruthin helps lay out books on the roof in order that they may dry out from some kind of inundation. 

"From the colors and aromas of this world, my childhood made a poet's lyre and offered it to me."

Women clean their fancy rugs.  Other women make the fancy rugs.  Men dye the thread that goes into the making of the rugs. 

A man removes the cut-off head from a chicken. 

"Saint George, we implore you, let your good fortune, your kind thoughts spread over our family, on our people, along with your white horse be a stronghold for our people, give prosperity to this family, give them good thoughts and prosperity".

Aruthin looks into rooms where men get massages from servants.  Black mud is put all over the men and then a servant helps wash the mud off the men. 

Aruthin looks into a room where a nude woman is laying.  (Brief nudity.)  (And another shot of brief nudity.)

Men play music for the men going through the treatment. 

"We were searching for ourselves in each other." 

And then there is the art of lace making. 

Next comes some dancing. 

"In this healthy and beautiful life my share has been nothing but suffering.   Why has it been given to me?"   

Now there are scenes shot in the outdoors, including those involving horses. 

"We were searching for a place of refuge for our love, but instead, the road led us to the land of the dead."

Horsemen ride from right to left paralleling a fortress wall. 

There's a death scene with a cloth dummy representing the dead.

"You abandoned us and went away, but we the living wrapped you in a cocoon so in your new world you would burst out like a butterfly."

"How am I to protect my wax-built castles of love from the devouring heat of your fires?"

"You are fire.  Your dress if fire.  You are fire.  Your dress is black.  Which of these two fires can I endure?"

There is dancing around a number of hanging rugs. 

"Go then, selfless heart and find your place of refuge.  I will go and search the monasteries one by one."

Thirteen religious men are busy eating pomegranates.  Other men are stomping grapes. 

"Beautiful one, come quickly, quickly come, o beautiful one . . ."

Man and woman getting married. 

Christening of a child.

"Brothers of mine in soul and blood, heaven has sent upon us to this world, grief  --  grief -- grief.   Brothers of mine in soul and blood, grief, inconsolable grief has been sent to us from heaven today.  On this night of revelations at Etchmiadzin, died our Saint Father Lazarus, Catholics of all Armenians.  Brothers of mine in soul and blood, heaven has sent upon us to this world, grief -- grief -- grief."

A man digs a hole within the church.   Sheep come into the church where the man digs a hole. 

"Brothers of mine in soul and blood, grief has sent to us to this world from heaven, grief  --  grief -- grief.  Brothers of mine in soul and blood, grief  --  grief -- grief.  Grief is sent to us from heaven today at Eatchmiadzin.  During this night of the revelation of Saint Sarkis, our Holy Father Lazarus, Catholics of all Armenians, has died."

"I asked for a shroud to wrap the dead body, instead, I was given frenzied convulsions of their living bodies."

"Where can I find selfless love?"

More prayers to God.  Women bring into the church their detailed rugs they made.

"In the Sun Valley of the distant years, live my longings, my loves and my childhood."

"You are fire, you're dressed in black.  You are fire, you're dressed in black.  You are fire, you're dressed in black."

A camel is in the next scene of people making raucous music. 

A family has a huge piece of flat bread.  The boy tears off a piece and eats it.  Now they have a bakery full of bread. 

The top piece of a building is being put in place but is dropped and breaks. 

Three dogs are used in a scene. 

"I saw everything clear and strangely blunt, and I understood that life had abandoned me."

A bloody scene comes when men kill and butcher three sheep.  Blood runs over the steps. 

"We have slain the sacrificial lamb, boiled the meat and distributed it at seven places.  Come hither, come. "  The bloody heads of three sheep are displayed. 

Wife:  "When my husband and I went to Tiflis, we went to the Turkish square, where there was a public bathhouse.  We had a good bath."

Husband:  "What are you saying woman?  You're letting everyone know that we've been to the bathhouse.  Take these roosters and give them to the maidens." 

Wife:  "As we came out to eat some barbecue, we heard that a troubadour had come to town.  We went to see him, but he was no troubadour, but a cobbler."

People sing:  "As long as I live, my life is all yours, my love.  My life is all yours, how can I help it, my love?"

A white-haired man says to another man:  "Go amongst the people and may we always hear of your triumphs, your kind deeds and your well-being.  You are the salt of the earth.  And may God of speech be always with you.  Go amongst the people."

A horse is used in the next scene.  He is pulled along by the man sent out to go amongst the people.   

A soldier sits on a different horse and prepares to fire an arrow from his bow.  The face of a stained-glass picture falls from the window. 

"I hear calls of homecoming and hope, but I am weary.  Who has spread all this sorrow upon this old and weary earth?"

"The world is like an open window.  And I'm weary of passing through it.  You wound the one that looks through it.  I'm weary of the tomorrows and even its gardens are full of sorrows.  "

A female human body is buried.

"The bread you gave us was beautiful, but the soil is even more beautiful.  I'll go and soon turn to dust.  I am weary, I am weary."

A woman with a knife later pours blood over a man who might have looked like Christ. 


The information on the back of the DVD says that this is a baroque masterpiece.  The film is also called an "hallucinatory epic account of the life of the 18th Century Armenian national poet Sayat Nova".  Another phrase is "high art".  "Conceived as an extraordinarily complex series of painterly tableaux that recall Byzantine mosaics, the film is a dreamlike icon come to life of astonishing beauty and rigor.  It evokes the poet's childhood and youth, his days as a troubadour at the court of King Heraclius II of Georgia, his retreat to a monastery, his old age and death."

A film critic said about the film maker Sergei Paradjanov (1924-1990):  "Paradjanov made films not about how thing are, but how they would have been had he been God."

Personally, I didn't think the images were very pretty.  The landscape is rather dull and the building are also of dull earth colors.  Maybe if I was a bit of a religious fanatic, the images would mean much more to me.  It's interesting how the poet keeps saying that life is full of grief, grief, grief. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


95 - 66 BCT  at this time the Kingdom of Armenia was at its greatest extent under Tigranes the Great (reigned between 95 and 66 BC).  Armenian occupied its present-day spot north to Georgia, but extended all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.  On this coast it reached from north to south: Tarsos, Antioch, Laodikia and Damascus. 

Today Armenia is bordered on the north by Georgia; on the east by Azerbaijan; on the south by Iran; and on the west Turkey. 


Sayat-Nova was born as Harutyun Sayatyan on 14 June 1712.  He was an Armenian poet, musician and ashik (that is, mystic troubadour or traveling bard) who had compositions in a number of languages. Harutyun Sayatyan later adopted the name name Sayat Nova (meaning "Master of Songs" in Persian).  Although he lived his entire life in a deeply religious society, his poems are mostly secular and full of romantic expressionism.

Sayat-Nova's mother, Sara, was born in Tbilisi, Georgia and his father, Karapet, either in Aleppo, Syria or Adana, Turkey. He himself was born in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Sayat Nova was skilled in writing poetry, singing, and playing the kamancheh, Chonguri, Tambur.

1732-1735  --  occupation of Kakheti by the Ottomans.

1734-1735  --  Ottomans ousted from Georgia by Nader, Shah of Iran, in his two successive campaigns of 1734 and 1735.

 1744-1762  --Heraclius II was a Georgian monarch of the Bagrationi Dynasty.

Sayat-Nova performed in the court of Erekle II of Georgia, where he also worked as a diplomat and, apparently, helped forge an alliance between Georgia, Armenia and Shirvan against the Persian Empire.

He lost his position at the royal court when he fell in love with the king's sister, and spent the rest of his life as an itinerant bard.

In 1759 he was ordained as a priest in the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In 1768 his wife Marmar died.  Four children were left behind. 

He served in various locations including Tbilisi and Haghpat Monastery.

In 1795 he was killed in the monastery by the invading army of Mohammad Khan Qajar, the Shah of Iran, for refusing to denounce Christianity and convert to Islam.

He is buried at the Cathedral of Saint George, Tbilisi.

He died 22 September 1795, at 83 years of age in Haghpat. 

2006  --  The first translations of the Armenian odes of Sayat Nova in European languages was in France by Elisabeth Mouradian and the French poet Serge Venturini.



Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)