About Us

Contact Us


2001 Archives

Hacktreks Travel 2

First Chapters
World Travel
September Issue
October Issue
November Issue
December Issue
Feb 02 Issue
April 02 Issue
May 02 Issue
June02 Issue
July02 Issue
August 02 Issue
September 02

The 21st Vancouver Film Festival - ARARAT

Marcel D'Agneau

There is a good movie to be made about the Armenian massacre but this isn’t one of them.

David Alpay
Cast: Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Brent Carver, Bruce Greenwood (Dr. Clarence Usher), Elias Koteas, Christopher Plummer, David Alpay, Raoul Bhaneja, Marie-Josee Croze, Arsinee Khanjian
Director: Atom Egoyan- a deeply personal project for Atom Egoyan, an Armenian-Canadian. His 1993 movie, Calendar, was filmed and set in Armenia.
Screenwriter: Atom Egoyan
(The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica, Felicia's Journey, Calendar, The Adjuster)
This film addresses the true 1915-1917 holocaust of over a million and a half Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. Ararat is a province of Armenia.
Genocide Memorial Day is on April 24th

I accept the Directors premise that the Armenian’s were slaughtered in their millions. Indeed, just as Atom Egoyan is from a displaced Armenian family and himself raised in Victoria, our own publisher Carine’s great grandfather was from Armenia and fled the slaughter to Germany where thirty years later his son was put into a German death camp. He survived and founded a family. Persecuted Armenians are the hidden shame of Eastern Europe and Atom Egoyan is right to bring it to our attention.

However, there are warning signs. You know a bad American movie made in Canada when it stars Christopher Plummer and whereas I wouldn’t want to deny him work in his old age, when a Canadian film resorts to Christopher Plummer, you know something very bad is going to happen.

And so, watching Ararat last night at the 21st Vancouver Film Festival it was an uncomfortable feeling to know almost from the outset that this was a mess. Earnest, well meant, but a mess.

When one tells a story through the lens of a movie within a movie it is always a mistake to then make that inner movie a bad movie (whether that was the intention or not). The inner movie is the story of Dr Clarence Usher (Bruce Greenwood) who was the eyewitness to the slaughter. Added to which there is an overlay of the personal lives of those playing the parts and those observing those playing the parts, centring around the portrait by Gorky of his mother and himself as a child, an icon to exiled Armenians. In addition there is the role playing between Christopher Plummer’s Custom’s officer on his last day and David Alpay the putative angry young man seeking to make sense of his life, his relationships, the death of his freedom-fighting father, his aggressive girlfriend who also lost her father and the meaning of what it is to be Armenian in Canada. It’s a lot for two characters to have to carry in an extended scene.

Worse we have the Custom’s officers back story to contend with – his gay son living with the Turkish actor who will play with villain in the film.

It’s all way too much. The superstructure of this film can’t stand the weight of all the people and their problems. It can’t stand the making of a bad film about a serious tragedy; it can’t even stand the endless blown up shots of David Alpay’s characters home movie of Armenia. (Or the logic of the rolls of unexposed film not going through an x-ray machine in Turkey since Sept 11th).

There is a good movie to be made about the Armenian massacre but this isn’t one of them.
There is nothing especially terrible. The shots of Armenians being slaughtered are terrifying and real and perhaps this was the film that should have been made with heart on Atom’s sleeve. The influences from Truffaut’s ‘Day for Night’ are there but they are not carried off.

Christopher Plummer, by sheer weight of experience makes us realise that he is good, but too late, because we are impatient, because we all hate custom’s officers, because it slows the movie down, by the time we have a payoff, we have lost patience with these two.

Someone, at sometime, should have said Atom there are too many stories here, too many movies, too many personal; stories, too many art galleries, too much unexplained about vast homes filled with dope growing under hot lights….

All storytellers want to get it all in, but luckily for most of us there are story editors.
Ararat is a disappointment because it tries too hard, does too much and dilutes it tragic message.

© Marcel D'Agneau October 2002

More Reviews

< Back to Index
< Reply to this Article

© Hackwriters 2002