The Color of Pomegranates is a biography of the Armenian ashug Sayat-Nova (King of Song) that attempts to reveal the poet's life visually and poetically rather than literally. The film is presented with little dialogue using active tableaux which depict the poet's life in chapters: Childhood, Youth, Prince's Court (where he falls in love with a tsarina), The Monastery, The Dream, Old Age, The Angel of Death and Death. There are sounds and music and occasional singing but dialogue is rare. Each chapter is indicated by a title card and framed through both Sergei Parajanov's imagination and Sayat Nova's poems. Actress Sofiko Chiaureli notably plays six roles in the film, both male and female. According to Frank Williams, Paradjanov's film celebrates the survival of Armenian culture in the teeth of oppression and persecution: "There are specific images that are highly charged blood-red juice spilling from a cut pomegranate into a cloth and forming a stain in the shape of the boundaries of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia; dyers lifting hanks of wool out of vats in the colours of the national flag, and so on." This nationalist imagery coupled with religious imagery and some brief nudity did not sit well with Soviet authorities, and the film was heavily censored upon its release. Its title was changed from Sayat Nova because Soviet authorities alleged the film had little to do with the poet, and scenes using his poetry had to be re-worded. The original uncut version of the film would not surface until 1992, after Armenia's independence.
Lady Gagas music video for 911 was heavily influenced by the film and references its imagery.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: There are several. Actress Sofiko Chiaureli portray's Sayat Nova's muse and later the Angel of Resurrection, and the Angel of Death makes an appearance at the end.
- Biopic: The film is a loose, symbolic biography of Sayat Nova.
- Crosscast Role: Some of Sofiko Chiaureli's roles are of male characters.
- Grim Reaper: The Angel of Death leads Sayat away at the end of the film after his death.
- Loads and Loads of Roles: Sofiko Chiaureli plays six different roles throughout, some female and some male.
- Makes As Much Sense In Context: Most critics have agreed that even those with some knowledge of Sayat Nova's life, poetry, and Armenian culture will have a hard time deciphering its symbolism. It's a film that you kind of have to experience rather than understand.
- Mind Screw: The film is strictly symbolic in nature. Luckily a few short documentaries have been made for the purpose of explaining the film, and are included on DVD and Blu-Ray releases.
- Random Events Plot: The film doesn't really have a plot in the conventional sense.
- Rule of Symbolism: The film relies heavily on it.