Monday, February 24, 2014
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964, w/English subtitles)
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Ukrainian: Тіні забутих предків, Tini zabutykh predkiv), also called Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, Shadows of Our Ancestors, or Wild Horses of Fire – is a 1964 film by the Soviet filmmaker Sergei Parajanov based on the classic book by Ukrainian writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky. The film was Parajanov's first major work and earned him international acclaim for its rich use of costume and color. The film also features a detailed portrayal of Ukrainian Hutsul culture, showing not only the harsh Carpathian environment and brutal family rivalries, but also the beauty of Hutsul traditions, music, costumes, and dialect.
In a small Hutsul village in the Carpathian mountains of Ukraine, a young man, Ivan, falls in love with the daughter of the man who killed his father. Though their families share a bitter enmity, Ivan and Marichka have known each other since childhood. In preparation for their marriage, Ivan leaves the village to work and earn money for a household. While he is gone, Marichka accidentally slips into a river and drowns while trying to rescue a lost lamb.
Ivan returns and falls into despair after seeing Marichka's body. He continues to work, enduring a period of joyless toil, until he meets another woman, Palagna, while shoeing a horse. Ivan and Palagna get married in a traditional Hutsul wedding in which they are blindfolded and yoked together. The marriage quickly turns sour, however, as Ivan remains obsessed with the memory of Marichka. Estranged from her emotionally distant husband, Palagna becomes involved with a local sorcerer, while Ivan begins to experience hallucinations.
At a tavern, Ivan witnesses the sorcerer embrace Palagna and strike one of his friends. Roused into an uncharacteristic fury, Ivan snatches up his axe, only to be struck down by the sorcerer. Ivan stumbles into the nearby woods and perceives Marichka's spirit to be with him, reflected in the water and gliding amongst the trees. As reality merges into dream, the colorless shade of Marichka reaches out across a great space and touches Ivan's outstretched hand. Ivan screams and dies. The community gives him a traditional Hutsul burial while children watch through crossbraced windows.