This avant-garde film by Russian director Sergei Parajanov depicts the life of the revered 18th-century Armenian poet and musician Sayat-Nova (Vilen Galstyan). Portraying the artist's life from his childhood to his death, the film particularly illuminates his relationships with women, including his muse (Sofiko Chiaureli). The production tells Sayat-Nova's dramatic story by using both his poems and largely still camerawork, creating a highly impressionistic work.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s first feature, Ivan’s Childhood, was a big influence on Parajanov and inspired him to abandon the Socialist Realism of the mid-60s, in favour of more poetic features. Upon its completion, the film was criticised by Soviet censors and the Communist Party for being too poetic and not properly educating the public on the poet’s life, and all literal references to the poet were removed.
Since then, the film has been recut to be as close to Parajanov’s original vision as possible. This digitally-restored version premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.