The Legend of Suram Fortress

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

A free man! This film gives the impression of having emerged straight out of antiquity. There’s no sign of industrialism, or of exploration or conquest. The dramatic method, which alternates intensely concentrated scenes of ritual with wild and even reckless ellipses, only increases the impression that this is actually, uniquely, a piece of archeological cinema. It has the feeling of having been excavated, whole, lacking in essential context, and all the more undeniable because of it.

Paradjanov doesn’t have much use for the Soviet regime, does he? This is way more dangerous than Andrei Tarkovsky’s insular spirituality. It’s almost shockingly materialist—did anyone else ever photograph and feature objects (furnishings, fabrics and vestments, food) like this? And it’s shockingly other, and completely undeniable as well. He has fashioned an entire world.

The Legend of Suram Fortress is also radically nationalist, relentlessly Georgian. I guess that the Soviets were spooked!  As for the modern, maybe North American or Western European viewer, this is terribly challenging, because no one else’s movies will help you through this one. (Dreyer, maybe?) Terribly exhilarating, because Paradjanov ultimately supplies his own very particular methods, and in so doing leaves everything else looking faintly cautious and finally unnecessary.