Dr. Luba (Detroit, MI USA) -
I've seen this film several times, and find it powerful, beautiful moving and confusing, all at the same time. It must be experienced to be appreciated fully.
As the previous reviewer noted, the information provided by amazon is woefully inaccurate and riddled with errors. More of it is wrong than is right. The film is set in the medieval Carpathians (NOT during the 19th century). It is in Ukrainian. And it has nothing to do with "harsh realities of Russian regional history"--the Carpathian region was not a part of the Russian empire until AFTER WWII, and it neither is nor ever was ethnically Russian.
Graveyard Poet (St. Louis, MO USA) -
This is a vividly visual and visceral film from the brilliantly unique and visionary director Paradjanov. It remains one-of-a-kind with its dazzling, colorful cinematography, hallucinatory and surreal, and its almost ethnographic depiction of ancient agrarian life and rituals in a community of the Carpathian mountains. It is a tragic love story and a story of the earth, which is like a forgotten folk song of intoxicating wonder.
Film about the Ukrainians living in the Carpathian Mountains, known as Hutsuls. In Ukrainian. Beautiful imagery. The ancient Hutsul customs are still practiced today. Should be seen by anyone interested in Ukrainian people, or those planning a visit to Halychyna.
Yaroslava Benko "Mandrivnyk" (Arlington Heights, IL - USA) -
Good news/bad news. The good news is that Amazon is selling a truly exceptional DVD entitled, `Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,' which is based on a novel by Ukrainian author Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky (1864-1913).
Journey into the past and experience the world-renowned Ukrainian Hutsul folklore and folkways that encyclopedists, historians, and authors depict by way of words and the film gives credence to via imagery, moods, symbolism, and sounds. Avenues you'll travel will branch off, giving you exposure to artistic embroideries, folk music, folk songs, ornate costumes, religious ceremonies, and traditional rituals (such as a traditional Hutsul wedding and a traditional Hutsul burial), along the way.
Folklife comes alive as you float down a river in a unique wooden raft, partake in Christmas festivities, encounter a sorcerer, and lots more--all against a backdrop of the magnificent Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains, where trees' shadows silhouette straight as they stretch for the stars and for the skies, where horses dress in tassels as they meander meadows and highlands, where Hutsuls converse across Carpathian Mountains via trembitas--and, where Ivan cannot forget his true love.
`Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors' is not your typical feel-good film; it's for the connoisseur of fine arts. If you want your senses stimulated, your imagination enlivened, and your knowledge of Hutsul culture expanded, then, this is the film for you!
Film director, Sergei Parajanov, was an Armenian born in Georgia. He insisted on filming `Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors' in the Ukrainian language, and refused to dub it into Russian. In his lifetime, he was persecuted by the Soviets, was arrested several times, spent years in prison, and his subsequent works were banned.
`Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,' which was later renamed Wild Horses of Fire for most foreign distributions, was Parajanov's first major work, and earned him international acclaim for its rich use of color and costume. `Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors' won six international film festival awards: London, San Francisco, Mar del Plata, New York, Montreal, and Thessaloniki.
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors has often been described as a Carpathian Romeo and Juliet - that is, if Romeo had the tenacity to live after his beloved's death. Sergei Paradjanov prefaces the tragic tale set in the Carpathian mountains as the land "forgotten by God and men", and from the austerity of the environment, it is evident that survival comes at a high price. In essence, the story is incidental to the observations of daily peasant life: the Orthodox order of mass, the rites of spring, the rhythm of the sickle cutting the fields. A young man, Ivan (Ivan Nikolaichuk), falls in love with Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova), the daughter of the man who killed his father. As his mother's only surviving child, he leaves the village to work as a hired laborer to provide for her. However, before he can return to Marichka, she falls to her death in an attempt to rescue an errant lamb. The story then follows Ivan through his descent into despair, marriage to the sensual Palagna (Tatyana Bestayeva), and Palagna's inevitable betrayal.
Paradjanov's startling camerawork is mesmerizing, richly symbolic, and highly original. The tall, thin trees (shot upward), strips of cloth drying in the field, and Ivan's raft create an exaggerated linearity, a sense of continuity, that provides a paradox to the brevity of their existence, and also symbolizes the eternity of true love. Furthermore, the pervasive religious images in the film: Marichka's crucifix, the lamb grazing at a cross grave marker, Marichka's apparition against the window crossbrace, and The Pieta epilogue, are transfigurations of the purity of love. The color composition is bizarre and unnatural: pale, washed, glacial, almost monochromatic hues, infused with jarring touches of red and yellow (note the saturation of red at scene changes). The odd color palette suggests emotional incongruence - a love that cannot materialize - an unrequited passion. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a visionary film, an homage to the dignity of human struggle, and a testament to the inexorable power of destiny.
Galina (Virginia, USA)
Sergei Parajanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964) is original, surprising film, baroque in style and extraordinary fast. It uses elements of animation (blood streams turn into flying red horses), changes from B/W to color, and, is without a doubt experimental, ahead if its time cinema. You can practically feel dizziness from the rapid and unusual camera angles and you will be mesmerized by the colors of the traditional costumes, sounds of the folk songs, and by the sheer magic of Paradjanov's world. Made over 40 years ago it is still impressive. I can imagine how much ahead of time it was upon releasing.
The story about Guzul guy Ivan who loved a girl, lost her forever, suffered deeply, tried to forget her by marrying another woman, could not make that woman happy and was ultimately betrayed by her, is told in incredibly triumphant exuberant, and poetic way. The story of star-crossed lovers has been explored in art, literature, and cinema many times, and it is not surprising then the first half of the film sounds as rephrases of "Romeo and Juliette". But Shadows is interesting not only because of the story. Strange, but compelling mixture of Christianity and pagan rituals of Carpathian bewitched mountaineers, gives to the film special dimension. There are not many directors who would be able to create the ethnographic cinema which is at the same time gripping drama/legend/love story. Parajanov -- one of such directors and his film looks feels absolutely seamless, wholesome, and organic.
Mr. Kenneth G. Davies "rolleicanonikon" (Manhattan, New York, USA) -
This review is from: Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Special Edition) (DVD)
A one-off, and a must-see. A sad story set in the 19th century Carpathians. Beautiful use of colour to illustrate emotions and, in the case of the blood-red fades, the tragic outcome. The evocation of rural life is not limited to meadows and forests, cut with beautiful still shots of tree bark and lichen: the film is full of details of everyday life, from roof replacement to bread-making and bear hunting, not to mention religious observance, funerals and a wedding, more exciting and at least as informative as any documentary. I saw this with my mother in 1966, and it reminded her of a stay with her father's family in nearby Ruthenia in the 1920s (her father had emigrated on foot to Vienna years earlier). Even the music is much closer to Rumanian folk music than Russian, so I don't understand how the authors of the cover note could have mistaken this for Russia, except for the similarity between the Russian and Ukrainian languages.