The Legend of Suram Fortress (1985)

Genres - Drama, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

A truly visually stunning piece of work, The Legend of Suram Fortress is a challenging, complicated film that will frustrate and/or bore some viewers while captivating and entrancing others. Drawing deeply from both the great historical traditions of Georgian culture and from the political realities of life under Soviet rule, there's a great deal of meaning in Suram that will escape viewers with little familiarity in these areas. Even those who have a familiarity will likely find at least portions of Suram challenging, for creators Sergei Paradjanov and Dodo Abashidze are working in a highly personal that often forsakes narrative clarity for visual impact. For those willing to just absorb the feelings and meanings evoked by the visuals and to place less emphasis on the narrative, Suram will be intensely rewarding. The interplay of colors, the heavy emphasis on purples and goldens, the skewed perspectives, the "tableau" creations, and the creation of an "other world" atmosphere can work a kind of magic on willing viewers that enables them to experience the story as an exploration of myth and legend and the archetypes found therein. The careful selection of location shooting adds another layer, one which can be appreciated simply for its striking visual appeal or for the more complex historical and political associations linked to many of the sites. Those who dislike Suram have good reason for doing so, as there is plenty of cinematic "inaction" and confusion. But those who can get "into" the filmmakers' world will find Suram a uniquely involving experience.