The Hindu, India
Sept 28 2014
Outtakes: Artavazd Peleshian
by Srikanth Srinivasan
WHO is he?
Armenian film theorist and independent filmmaker who made close to 10
short documentary films between the late sixties and mid-nineties.
Peleshian studied film at the prestigious VGIK in Moscow and the
student films he made at the institute already bear significant traces
of his mature work.
WHAT are his films about?
Although there are hints that Peleshian seems to be commenting on the
tragic historical and natural calamities that have plagued Armenia,
the director denies it, instead attributing to his films a universal
validity. These de-contextualised films do indeed throw light on the
plight of entire humanity, poeticising its ability to pick itself up
and go on with life. Pain and ecstasy, suffering and resilience,
cynicism and optimism and life and death are binaries that abound in
these works, as do images of mass movements, imprisonments, struggle
Peleshian’s films are characterised by a highly stylised editing
style, which he calls Distance Montage, wherein the global rhythm of
the film and the circularity of structure become the key elements
instead of the shot-to-shot dialectic that was propounded by the early
pioneers of the Russian montage. These films contain no specific
characters (the entirety of humanity is the subject) and the
soundtracks are a mixture of conventional scores and pre-existing
sounds organised into a dense, experimental soundscape. They contain
no dialogue, typically possess a symmetric structure and employ varied
frame rates that either slow down or speed up action.
WHY is he of interest?
Peleshian’s work straddles the realms of filmic essays and filmic
poetry. Like, Godard, he uses existing images and footage,
re-deploying them a number of times in various diverse contexts and
yet retaining their emotional and intellectual potency. His films are
testimony to the universality of the cinematic medium in the way they
take a detached perspective from immediate events to reflect on
larger, existential behaviour of his human subjects.
WHERE to discover him?
The Seasons (1975) is set in the Armenian countryside and depicts
images from the daily life of peasants, their ceremonies and their
games. Emphasising the cycle of seasons as well that of life, the
25-minute work is a paean to man’s complicated and ironic relationship
with nature, in which nature becomes the force that both structures
quotidian life and disrupts it; both the life-giver and the grim