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Film / Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a 1965 Ukrainian film by Sergei Parajanov, based on a book by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky.

The film tells the story of Ivan and Marichka, a pair of young Star-Crossed Lovers living in a Hutsul community in the Carpathian mountains. The film's surrealist style clashed with the prevailing Socialist Realism of the time, angering the Soviet authorities and contributing to the suppression of Parajanov's films.

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Tropes:

  • An Axe to Grind: Men in Hutsul culture are expected to carry their shepherd's axes everywhere. They have small double-blades and long handles, making them useful as walking sticks, wood choppers and weapons.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Ivan and Palahna's marriage is unhappy because he still pines for Marichka.
  • Bar Brawl: Ivan picks a fight with the sorcerer after watching him slap around one of Ivan's friends and embrace Ivan's wife in a bar. Everyone carries axes in Hutsul culture, so the brawl turns deadly.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Subverted. Ivan is only roused to fury once, at the end of the film when he sees his wife embracing the sorcerer, but he loses the resulting fight and gets mortally wounded.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: As a cost-saving device, some scenes are shot in black and white. These are mostly when Ivan leaves the village to work and during his period of mourning.
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  • Died Happily Ever After: Mortally wounded and stumbling through the forest, Ivan smiles as Marichka's ghost seems to be walking in the same woods. She reaches out to touch him, and he dies, though the scream might suggest it's not the happiest ending.
  • Divorce Requires Death: Palahna shacks up with a sorcerer, with the apparent intention of getting him to kill Ivan to spare her of their loveless marriage.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Ivan spends a lot of his time drinking after Marichka's death, which angers his wife.
  • The Dying Walk: After getting mortally wounded in a bar brawl, Ivan stumbles out into the forest to die.
  • Foil: Ivan and Marichka's parents are studies in opposites. Ivan's father picks a fight with Marichka's father against his own wife's urging, while Marichka's mother demands that her father go teach Ivan's father a lesson.
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  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The film earned a lot of praise for its beautiful costuming, accurately replicating Hutsul styles. This is particularly noticeable during the wedding.
  • Ill Girl: Marichka is not very strong. She collapses during a village festival from dancing too much, causing Ivan to have to carry her away. She later makes a wrong step while rescuing a lamb and falls into a river, drowning.
  • The Lost Lenore: Marichka after her death. Ivan never gets over losing her, which ultimately leads to the disintegration of his later marriage.
  • Magical Realism: The film has supernatural elements, which could be explained as hallucinations and superstition. Ivan's wife cheats on him with a sorcerer. Later, a delirious Ivan seems to see Marichka's ghost walking through the woods toward him. The use of this trope put it at odds with Soviet authorities, who mandated Socialist Realism in all Soviet art pieces.
  • Murderer P.O.V.: Inverted. We see the slaying of Ivan's father from the father's POV. Marichka's father hacks at the POV, causing red to drip down the lens.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The film uses a lot of Christian imagery, with cross shapes and lambs being the most obvious.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Ivan and Marichka have been inseparable since childhood, but after her father kills his father, they are forced apart. Ivan must leave the village to earn enough money for them to elope.
  • The Unfavorite: A spousal example. Ivan tries to be happy with his bride Palahna, but he's forever haunted by his first love, Marichka.
  • Uptown Girl: Marichka's father is the richest man in the village.
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