SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS

Sergei Pradjanov’s epic period romance is essentially a medieval Ukrainian version of “Romeo & Juliet,” with a visual flair you’d never expect. Ivan (Ivan Mikolajchuk), a villager in the Carpathian Mountains, is a child when he meets the beautiful Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova). They are instant friends and infatuated with each other into young adulthood, only to discover that their families have a feud going over the fact that Ivan’s father was murdered by Marichka’s. Will this grudge keep them apart, or will tragedy expedite the process? An involving story mixes Soviet mysticism and good old-fashioned romance with a gloriously hyperkinetic camera; it tracks and zooms through the woods and village, and early on there’s even a shot from the point-of-view of a tree as it falls on Ivan’s father, and later we get a murder from the point of view of the victim with blood soaking the lens. Paradjanov directs with astonishing confidence, making a fairly routine story that much more involving. An overlooked gem. NOTE: This film won many awards on the film festival circuit before Paradjanov became a political prisoner for calling for the end of socialist realism and for more personal Soviet films.

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