The overtly propagandistic, anti-religious plot of The Flower on the Stone (Tsvetok na kamne, Dovzhenko Film Studio 1960–1962) does not look like promising Parajanov material: when a new Komsomol mine and mining community is established in the Donbas region, a member of a Pentecostal cult sends his daughter Christina to recruit new believers. Arsen Zagorny, an upstanding Komsomol member and a talented violinist, falls in love with Christina and crosses paths with Zabroda, the leader of the local cell of the cult. Additional problems crop up in the form of Grigori Griva a local boy prone to hooliganism and drink and his buddy Chmykh, a dissolute accordion player. Grigori learns to mend his ways thanks to the guidance of Pavel Fedorovich Varchenko, the wise and patient director of the mine, and Liuda, the Komsomol organizer with whom he falls in love. The film’s title refers to fossilized plants visible on pieces of coal.
An actual viewing of the film only confirms one’s initial doubts, though as with most of Parajanov’s previous works it contains some memorable visual touches. Not all the shortcomings in The Flower on the Stone are Parajanov’s fault. In fact, he stepped in to finish the film, originally titled No One Has Loved Like That (Tak eshche nikto ne liubil), after much of the footage had already been shot. The first director, Anatoli Slesarenko, had been jailed for his role in the death of the lead actress Inna Kiriliuk Burduchenko, who died on August 15, 1960, from severe burns while filming a scene in which she entered a burning shack. According to a newspaper account at the time, Slesarenko had ordered the actress to shoot repeated takes despite the growing danger from the fire. The Dovzhenko Film Studio later decided to complete the fi lm and Parajanov, who needed work, accepted the challenge of shooting new footage and assembling the whole into a finished form.
In general, the film seems like two separate stories welded together: Christina’s rescue from the Pentecostal cult, and Grisha’s romance with Liuda and his awakening into consciousness. At minimum Slesarenko shot all the footage containing Burduchenko in the role of Christina, the troubled daughter of the Pentecostal sectarian. As crude antireligious propaganda, that footage would not have made a good film even before tragedy derailed the production. Likely contributions by Parajanov included: much of the surrounding narrative with Grisha Griva (Grigori Karpov) and his romance with Liuda; the montage sequence devoted to the day of Lenin’s death; and the fantasy sequence depicting the introduction of coal to the court of Peter the Great. The latter two sequences in particular smack of padding, and their playful, jocular approach clashes with the somber mood of the fi lm as a whole. Afterward Parajanov himself dismissed the resulting film as “the turd on the stone” [govno na kamne], punning on the film’s title.
As with Ukrainian Rhapsody, the screenwriter was a prominent member of the Soviet literary establishment. The titles of Vadim Sobko’s works provide a good idea of their main thrust: the poetry anthology Tractor Days (1932), the short story collections The Assemblers (1931) and People of Scaffolding (1933), and a trilogy of novels about World War II entitled The Path of the Star (1943–1947). Besides drawing a deliberate parallel between drunkenness and religious fanaticism, the screenplay for The Flower on the Stone features the classic Socialist Realism stock character of the Wise Leader: Varchenko, the mine’s director.
Steffen, James. The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov. Wisconsin Film Studies. Madison: UW Press, 2013.
1.38GB | 1 h 11 min | 740×576 | mkv