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ASHIK KERIB (1988, USSR) – 8/10

This avant-garde fantasy was the last film made by the legendary Soviet filmmaker and dissident Sergei Paradzhanov. I already wrote about this author with a unique and truly special style in three of his previous films, and while in “Shadow of Forgotten Ancestor” he dealt with Ukrainian tradition, folklore and tradition, in “The Color of Pomagrantes” Armenian, in “The Legend of Suram Fortress” in Georgian, “Ashik Kerib” is a colorful postcard of Azerbaijan. The already sick Paradzhanov, who died of lung cancer two years later, recorded “Ashik Kerib” together with the Georgian actor Dodo Abashidze. He also died in the same year as Paradžanov, and he acted in his previous film, while “Ashik Kerib” could perhaps be most accurately described as an oriental fairy tale.

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Paradžanov dedicated this film to his great friend Andrei Tarkovsky, who died two years earlier, and it is an adaptation of the short story of the same name by the famous Russian writer Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov. The whole story is told in traditional Azerbaijani folklore and style, and local music and dances play an important role. It is a film that stands out with colorful colors and stylistically is completely on the trail of his previous two films, and dialogues are usually a necessary evil and are used mainly to at least somewhat follow the narrative line. The term narrative line should not be taken literally here, because “Ashik Kerib” is a typical avant-garde, non-narrative, poetic film that only Paradžanov could make. As is well known, already in the mid-sixties, Paradzhanov rejected the classic Soviet socialist realist style and literally invented his own authentic cinematic expression, which he stuck to until the very end.

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The story takes place somewhere in the Caucasus several centuries ago, when a poor young troubadour is chased by the father of a girl the young man is in love with. The father is a rich man and the young man, regardless of the fact that he loves his daughter sincerely and extremely strongly, has to collect enough money to be able to marry his beloved. But before he leaves to earn money, the young man makes the girl promise that she will not marry another suitor before he returns. The young man is ready to do anything to please the girl’s father and earn the right to marry her, and his wanderings will last a thousand and one nights.

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