The best known stage and screen actress of the Caucasian nation of Georgia, Sofiko (Sofiya) Chiaureli died of natural causes in her native Tbilisi on March 1. She was 70.
Her father Mikheil was a film director who made the likes of 1949 propaganda film “The Fall of Berlin,” and was in Stalin’s favor, her mother a renowned stage actress.
For decades Chiaureli seemed to be the screen face of Georgia within the Soviet Union, while on the international scene she debuted in 1957 in Rezo Chkeidze’s Cannes contender “Our Courtyard.”
That film was among those that marked the appearance of a Georgian new wave, one clearly influenced by neo-realism. It also brought a new generation of talented directors, with almost all of whom the actress would work, among them her first husband Georgy Shengelaya. She appeared in Tengiz Abuladze’s 1977 “The Wishing Tree,” and in her cousin Georgy Daneliya’s “Don’t Grieve” in 1969.
Chiaureli graduated from Moscow’s main film school VGIK in 1960, and she declined offers from Moscow theaters to return to Tbilisi, where she entered the company of the Mardzhanishvili Drama Theater, remaining there until almost the end of her life, except for four years at rival Rustaveli Drama Theater from 1964 to 1968.
Her stage roles covered the entire repertoire, from the classics to contemporary work, both native and international; her Sophocles interpretations are especially remembered. In 2000 she set up a single-actor theater space titled Veriko in her family home in Tbilisi, together with her second husband Kote Makharadze, himself a respected stage actor who was better known across the USSR as an emotional football commentator. He predeceased her by six years.
Her later international fame came as the muse of Armenian-Georgian director Sergei Paradzhanov. In his 1970 “The Color of Pomegranates” she played no less than six roles, and later collaborated on Paradzhanov’s “The Legend of the Suram Fortress” (1984), and on the director’s last film “Ashik Kerib” from 1988.