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Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I just watched the movie Ararat.
Its a series of stories of people with the history of the Armenian genocide at the center. The movie is about the creation of a film about the genocide. This has certainly been done before- a film about a film. But it does seem appropriate in this case, because the issue of how to deal with the history is central. And one of the ways to deal with history is through art. So film and painting are both central to the film.

I wasn't sure what to make of the character of Rafi's step-sister. I think that the role she played was part of one of the themes of questioning what someone's death means to you. And when we try to come to grips with such a large number of deaths, we also need to address this question.

The film is complex and seems to work at a number of levels. When I see a complex movie, or read a complex story, I try to figure out if the complexity is useful and required. Some issues just can't be gotten at without the weaving together of many pieces- a sort of pointing in the direction of a truth, or image. But complexity seems to be praised for its own sake- a work without complexity can be deemed unimportant. So we have to watch out for complexity for its own sake. For the most part, it seemed to me that the complexity of Ararat was warranted. But I also admit that maybe its not as complex as I think. I tend to have trouble absorbing lots of different pieces, and so I view something as complex that others may find more simple. This reminds me of my insisting on the complexity of my own family situation, where others wondered what the big deal was. (Sorry, this is getting more personal now, but if I'm going to talk about my response to the film- how else to do it?)
And of course (to those who know me) there is another personal element in this response- my step-mother is Armenian- her parents were survivors of the genocide.

The film within the film focuses on the character of the painter Arshile Gorky. I don't know much about him. Maybe I'll learn more. In the film he is placed in the city of Van, where the Armenians mounted one of the few defenses against the Turks.

I'll leave it there for now... a few skeletal comments. Its not my job to write a book on this, but I was happy to have this story out there. Images from movies can stick with you. Especially when accompanied by emotional music. How does that process work? Something to think about. The filming of conversation is also interesting. The framing and timing give an interpretation what each expression means. I know there is still ambiguity, but there is also often implied meaning. Sometimes it is surprising to see ones intuitive understanding of what a facial expression means, given an explict framing that implies a more direct and articulated understanding by someone else.


Nani said...

Sounds like an interesting movie. Who's the writer and director? An American?

I see your point about complexity. Sometimes a thing has become popularized, then it stays popular whatever the situation is. No challenge or question.

I would like to make a movie. I was watching an interview with Wes Anderson about the making of his movie, The Royal Tenenbaums. It's neat, and inspiring.

Boaz said...

The director was Atom Agoyan. He was Egyptian, with Armenian parents, but grew up in Canada. Actually much of the movie takes place in Canada.
Here's a review by James Barardinelli.

Boaz said...

Actually, reading Barardinelli's review that I just posted above, it strikes me that maybe this movie is sort of an insider's movie. Barardinelli says it doesn't do a good job in convincing him to care about the Armenian genocide. As I said in the main post, it seems to me that it is mostly about the process of coming to terms with the past. So it sort of takes as a given the fact that you have a deep horror to the Armenian genocide, and then explores how those feelings manifest themselves and can possibly be dealt with. An important movie to make. But perhaps of more importance to those people actually actively trying to understand their own difficult histories than to the general public simply trying to learn the story of a horrible chapter of modern history.