Shadows can get away with its “Look at me, I’m artsy!” claims, mainly because it is indeed so boldly artistic that, despite being released in 1964, it looks like it’s from the 80s. If art begins at the level of excess – as in beyond the everyday – then the 80s might just be the most artistic decade of the century. Despite what its critics might have had to say about the infamous decade in its wake, its vacuousness – that is to say its disconnect from the everyday – and its revelling in artifice are the qualities that are now ensuring our enduring fascination with it. Of course, part of the appeal is also that we have vastly been ignoring that entertainment creates itself by exceeding its own excess, so that any blockbuster currently in theatres makes a movie like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) look downright quaint.
So when Parajanov offers a point-of-view shot from a falling tree – after all, vacuousness ensures that a tree isn’t any more lifeless than a human being – it’s hard not to think of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) and its own malevolent tree. It too was given a P.O.V., as though trees had more consciousness and agency than human beings. In fact, the acting in Shadows is often just as wooden as the trees, which only contributes to its artifice. If good acting is a craft, bad acting is an art.
The older actor eerily resembles the younger one playing the same character, unlike most movies for which we must suspend our disbelief and pretend a character grew up to look completely different, yet believe they are indeed one and the same person simply because they both happen to have blond hair.
And the spirograph continues. Surely, Ridley Scott must have been influenced by Parajanov’s misty forest shots for The Duellists (1977). George Lucas must too have been influenced by the look of Shadows for Star Wars (1977), in his case when it comes to the cloaks some of the characters wear. In turn, this might explain the similarities with Masters of the Universe (1983-1985), as the toys were produced after Mattel CEO Ray Wagner had rejected the offer to produce action figures based on Star Wars back in 1976, clearly not anticipating the wild success the movie franchise would obtain.