Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1964)

Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1964)

“What love has done to him!”

After the death of his childhood sweetheart (Larissa Katochnikova), a young peasant in the Carpathian Mountains (Ivan Nikolaichuk) finds it difficult to love his new wife (Tatyana Bestayeva).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Eastern Europe
  • Folk and Fairy Tales
  • Love Triangle
  • Star-Crossed Lovers
  • Village Life

Armenian director Sergei Paradjanov only made four films in a span of nearly 30 years, yet remains one of the most acclaimed Soviet directors of all time. Based on Ukranian folklore, Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors — Paradjanov’s feature debut — is a rare film which demands repeat viewing in order to appreciate its relentless stream of colorful imagery; scene after scene is dazzling in its cinematic innovation. Known as the “Carpathian ‘Romeo and Juliet’,” Shadows transcends cultural boundaries with its universal trope of tragic romantic loss, yet simultaneously remains firmly grounded within the fascinating minutiae of Eastern European village life. Paradjanov’s later films (such as The Color of Pomegranates, 1968) are equally colorful and evocative, yet ultimately too abstract, and don’t carry nearly as much emotional resonance as Shadows… But if you fall in love with Paradjanov’s visual style, you’re sure to want to see his entire — albeit tragically limited — oeuvre. Click here to read more about his tempestuous life, which included five years in a hard labor camp.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gorgeous cinematography

  • Ivan’s brother being crushed to death by an enormous tree
  • Ivan’s wedding to Palagna, in which they are ceremonially blindfolded and yoked together
  • The kaleidoscopically-filmed village dance
  • A haunting, evocative soundtrack

Must See?
Yes. This is Paradjanov’s finest, most accessible, movie, and should be seen by all film fanatics at least once.


  • Foreign Gem
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1964)

  1. First viewing. A once-must, for its unique place in cinema history.

    I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the film demands repeat viewings in order to fully ‘get’ it – for something so experimental, I think it’s still more or less straightforward (even if there are moments that are a bit less immediately clear).

    This is certainly a one-of-a-kind film – and will most likely come as a bit of a challenge for those more comfortable with traditional narrative. Still, if one remains receptive from the get-go, it should soon become apparent that the film is much more accessible than its oblique title might suggest.

    Ultimately, it’s a satisfying experience that stretches one’a appreciation of poetic cinema.

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