Friday, May 27, 2011
Forgotten By God and People: Miroslav Skorik- Music From Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (A Film by Sergei Paradjanov) 1965
Paradjanov's masterpiece, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, is such a mammoth statement, such a mind-bogglingly beautiful piece of work with such a wide influence, it's hard to believe it hasn't been permanently, indelibly installed into the dialogue of Greatest Films of All Time; at the very least, it ought to come up more often when folks are obsessing over 60's New Cinema and European New Wave.
An international festival success and multiple award-winner in 1965, the film predicted the emergence of the next great Soviet filmmaker, a visual visionary to effortlessly rival Eisenstein and a humanist with a refreshingly anthropological, folklorist approach augmented by emotional surrealism. But perhaps unsurprisingly, unity-obsessed Russian authorities reacted negatively to his celebration of regional, cultural, and religious history and lashed out at Paradjanov. An irrepressible, boyish man of great enthusiasm and vigor, he responded with nothing less than a revolutionary call for an end to Soviet Realism and a renewed focus on aesthetic, personal truths. For his transgressions, he spent years in prison, and so we have only four full films from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is his best, rivalled only by its stunning successor, The Color of Pomegranates.
The film describes a Carpathian folk tale, depicting traditions, rituals, locations, and costumes that have rarely if ever been seen on film. Greatly enhancing the vitality of the film is the revolutionary use of almost exclusively handheld camera, a method which ensures a kineticism is felt in the blood of every scene; every manic, breathtaking tracking shot and stunning movement. The viewer is inseparable from the camera's heartbeat, watching the events unfold with living presence and alien remove as though they were the hills themselves. The people and their story are beautiful but exaggerated in the way of legends, and the anthropological study of the culture is refracted through the beyond-real prism of aesthetic obsession and heightened emotion.
The music of the film, extracted from the film and collected here by my own modest labors, is mostly Carpathian folk songs and snippets of folk instruments (Jew's harp, bells, giant horns, etc.), with a bit of original score here and there. Most of the music occurs in the reality of the film, rather than in the background. You will hear the characters singing love songs to each other, monks chanting, women mourning in terrible, melodic laments, and ceremonial music traditions such as funeral and wedding songs. The Carpathian Gutsul tongue is a rough one, making this somewhat abrasive listening, especially with all the gnashing of teeth and cursing of death, but the glory lies in the savage beauty and occasional horror of it.
I hope you find some interest in this collection, but more than anything I urge you to see this movie. I urge you with all my heart and soul. One day my girlfriend came over and told me about a movie she'd seen that day, and that I should watch it with her. She said it was the best movie she'd ever seen. It sounded good but somehow boring (perhaps I feared a Tarkovsky situation), and I dragged my feet a bit, but we watched it together. By the time it was over, I was crying sheep's blood and pumping lightning from my heart, laughing the animal laugh of a barbarian and eating meat with my hands to feel the life inside. Thanks for that, my Sweet Pea.
So here's the soundtrack. As far as I know, no similar such artifact exists. This music is glorious and intense, and I offer it to you (if you enjoy this, please check out another soundtrack I've made available, from Paradjanov's final feature, Ashik Kerib). Here's the link:
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
R E U P P E D
And here are some screen shots:
1. The Carpathians, A Gutsul Land, Forgotten By God and People
2. Funeral for a Brother & Murder of a Father
3. "May God Send Plague Onto Them, and Death on Their Cattle!"
4. Ivan & Marichka
5. Growing Up In Love
6. Dance/ "We'll Never be Together"
7. Going/ Meadow
8. Star/ Hunt/ Marichka Falls
9. "What a Horrible Death You Found"/ Deer at the Grave & Loneliness
10. Religious Visions
12. Ivan & Palagna
13. Ivan & Palagna: Wedding Ritual
16. Tomorrow Is Spring: Palagna Practiced Sorcery
17. Sorceror: "He's God To Us. People Feared Him, Yet They Needed Him."
18. The Tavern/ Struck Down by the Sorceror's Axe
19. Ivan's Death
20. "Remember Me Ivanko, At Least Twice a Day. I Remember You Seven Times and Hour."*
22. Children's Faces in the Window/ End
*Translated lyrics to #20 (a sung dialogue between a dying Ivanko and the ghost of his lover):
-Sing Ivanko, as you can. I shall sing for you so that you won't understand.
-Tell me, tell me, girl, where have I lost my mind? Or maybe you've hidden it in a birch-tree or in a poplar?
-When we fell in love even dry oaks began to blossom. And when we parted, the lilacs withered.
-Oh, my sweet Marichka, my talkative bird. If only we had been destined to love each other for one summer.
-Remember me Ivanko, at least twice a day. I remember you seven times an hour. And the apple tree's shed its flowers. We had fallen in love as early as children.
- Oh I went to the meadow and saw a bird there. What are you doing now, my dark-haired Marichka? Oh Marichka, I can't forget you! Oh, we'll never be together!