Ararat review

:. Director: Atom Egoyan
:. Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie-Josée Croze
:. Running Time: 1:55
:. Year: 2002
:. Country: Canada


For quite some time Atom Egoyan has wanted to direct a film about the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Turks. After postponing it a few times, he finally takes on this delicate subject. Possibly his task has been made easier now that the Armenian genocide was officially recognized a year and a half ago. His earlier film Calendar (1993), about the break-up of a couple, was already set in Armenia.

In Ararat, characters cross and clash during the shooting of a film about the Armenian tragedy. A lecturer (a sublime Arsinée Khanjian) is solicited as an artistic adviser while her son, with whom she has a tumultuous relationship, also works on the picture. On the set, the filmmaker (Charles Aznavour, perfect in this role) is worried about the main actor's (Elias Koteas) amnesia and historical blindness. In a self-destructive burst, the young son smuggles drugs, back from a spiritual voyage to mount Ararat. Intercepted by customs, he will undergo a long interrogation that will allow him to face his demons and reconcile with his origins.

As always, Egoyan sets up a complex network of relations between the characters. Their common feature is the transmission, from generation to generation, of the trauma linked to the Armenian genocide. Each character carries his own tragedy. As always, Egoyan privileges a choral structure, with the family—his topic of predilection—at the center. He also delivers a reflection about artistic creation: how to represent what is impossible, to reproduce the massacre of a whole community? This, of course, also refers to his own work as a filmmaker.

However, Egoyan fails in this creditable project, precisely because of the doctoral and overly didactic approach of his film. The fiction rests on a testimony, as a paperboard indicates at the end and it is obvious that the director wanted to let the world know about this little known drama at all costs... turning it into a caricature. He wants to show everything, embrace it all in the same movement and question at the same time personal feelings, politics and art. It becomes again truly interesting only when it tightens its matter around family, a subject which he controls better and which would have been enough to clarify this period.

  Sandrine Marques
  Translated into English by Anji Milanovic

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