(4 out of 5 stars)
"The question, of course, is how you approach a topic as vastly horrific as the Armenian Genocide without leaving your audience overwhelmed and numb. The answer is that you tell another story against the backdrop of the unfathomable horrors, thereby giving your audience just enough of a hint of the horrors without drowning them in it.Spielberg pulled off this device pretty well in "Schindler's List". You see the ovens of Auschwitz, but not the people actually burned in them. You see the piles of bodies, but not them being slaughtered.In "Ararat" they tell the story of the making of a film about the Armenian Genocide, and inside that is the story of an Armenian American artist named Gorky who survived those horrors. Placing the scenes of mass murder, gang rape, and atrocity upon atrocity as a film-within-a-film provides enough emotional space to make these horrors psychologically manageable. While the film is very, very good, I'm not sure that the director pulled off the trick completely. I think his missed the mark of greatness. The subplots got a little busy and soap-opera-ish, in my opinion. There was an unrelated suicide, something about a terrorist attack. Apparently some statement on gay rights. Quasi-incest. Heroin smuggling. I dunno. I didn't see the point in all of that. The story of the gay son of the customs agent and his Turkish Canadian lover was over the top, out of place. Was the intent seriously to compare the plight of a middle class gay couple in Toronto in 2001 to the horrors of Lake Van in 1915? I hope not, for that would be the worst sort of blasphemy. Also the story of the young Armenian Canadian protaganist and his semi-incestuous relationship with his step-sister was just bizarre. What was the point of that? There was also a story of his unwiting smuggling heroin from Turkey and how this somehow helped the father of the young gay man (lover of the Turkish actor) accept his lifestyle. Maybe the director was saying that we get only homosexuality and drugs from Turkey, but I don't know. I think that some of this should have been cut, for detracting from the main point.Some of the dialogue got a bit didactic, with the characters delivering tendentious lectures on Armenian history.But, that's all nitpicking. Taken as a whole, this is a fine film and one that will stay with me the rest of my life. It makes the point that the Turks committed a crime of the same type as Rwanda, Bosnia, and yes, the Holocaust, and that denying this fact is a terrible stain on humanity. The fact that Israel officially denies any comparison of the Holocuast to the Armenian Genocide and is apparently working behind the scenes through its strong connections with the American film industry to limit the showing of this film on behalf of its strange bedfellow Turkey constitutes, in my opinion, one of the slimiest sellouts of basic human values in recent memory.God is Just, and He won't forget. Let Tel Aviv tremble.Anyway, go out and see this film. Buy a copy, and pass it along to your friends. This is a painful historical truth, the denial of which makes liars of us all and ultimately places us all in jeapardy."
Egoyan is a genius
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 02/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Armenian genocide constitutes one of the twentieth century's most shameful incidents. Largely forgotten today due to later, better publicized exterminations, the systematic killing of some one million Armenian people by the crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1915 still stirs controversy today. Turkey goes to great lengths to deny such an atrocity ever took place, but Armenian survivors and their descendants know better. The reasons for this event involved Ottoman politics of the time, with the rise of the reformist Young Turk movement within the Ottoman political system and its "promise" about granting autonomy to ethnic and religious minorities. In a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss," the Young Turks soon reneged on their promises and began a series of suppressions. Armenia suffered the most from the Young Turks sudden political reversal. Only with the defeat and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after World War I did the genocide end. President Woodrow Wilson redrew the boundaries of Armenia, a process that angered the Turks and directly led to the current revisionism concerning the massacre. Atom Egoyan's film "Ararat" deals directly, and indirectly, with this horrific historical event.Thanks to an individual who really knows her stuff about film, I decided to pay a visit to Atom Egoyan. "Ararat" was my first choice, and a good one at that even though the film is often confusing--often wonderfully so--in structure. The primary reason for this concerns the numerous storylines weaving their way through the tapestry of the film. We meet, by turns, an Armenian art historian named Ani (played by the gorgeous Arsinee Khanjian), her son Raffi (David Alplay), a customs official named David (Christopher Plummer), two men making a film about the genocide (played by Eric Bogosian and Charles Aznavour), Ani's stepdaughter and David's lover Celia (Marie-Josee Croze) and an up and coming actor in a relationship with David's son named Ali (Elias Koteas). Ani is an art historian working on a project about the famous Armenian painter Arshile Gorky, who was so affected by the loss of his mother in the genocide that he painted a picture of her when he arrived in America. Unable to deal with the memories of the massacre, Gorky ultimately committed suicide. As Ani documents this troubled man's life, she must deal with the highly inappropriate relationship between her son David and her French Canadian stepdaughter Celia. Celia believes Ani drove her father to commit suicide, a claim Ani fervently denies.Meanwhile, we meet customs official David, an embittered soul set to retire from his job in a matter of days. He is angry that his son left his wife in order to form a relationship with an out of work actor of Turkish descent named Ali. Ali receives a phone call from two filmmakers offering him the role of Jevdet Bey, one of the thugs responsible for the Armenian genocide. At roughly the same time, the two filmmakers, one of whom had intimate knowledge of the massacre, approach Ani about consulting on the film. Raffi soon arrives on the scene to work on the picture, and ultimately ends up taking a trip to the area where the massacre took place. On his return, he finds himself held up at customs by--surprise--David, who believes the young man is probably a heroin smuggler. As the film unfolds, most of what we know about the characters comes through flashbacks in an extended conservation between Raffi and David. Egoyan also employs a "film within a film" technique that adds further doubts about the veracity of unfolding events. "Ararat" is a brilliant film, even more so after you have seen it and think through some of the issues presented by Egoyan. I agree with the editorial reviews that state the movie deals with memory and how it affects people through time and across space. Celia's hostility towards Ani marks one aspect of how memory often assumes a slippery dimension, but the real kicker supporting this theme occurs during the lengthy conservations between David and Raffi. The whole dialogue is an effort on the part of Raffi to convince David that the Armenian genocide took place. David is a world-weary cynic unwilling to believe in Raffi's story, but he comes around in the end and ultimately accepts it. Or does he? The last scene where David opens a certain item and sees what is in it encapsulates the entire idea of the film. Should we believe in Raffi's story, especially after we see what David finds? Where is the evidence of the massacre? Is it in the ruins Raffi filmed on his trip and then showed to David? How do we really know these ruins represent the genocide? There are accounts left behind by American missionaries and other Europeans who were there when the events unfolded, but should we trust personal recollections? By forcing us to rely on narrative accounts regarding the massacre and not hard evidence, Egoyan shows us how it is possible for the Turks to deny their involvement in the slaughter. "Ararat" is a challenging film. I don't think this summary resolves any of the movie's numerous issues, but hopefully it will provide the impetus for you to get out and pick up a copy. Even if you have little interest in watching the film for the deeper issues, check it out for the wonderful acting. The scene where Ali challenges Raffi over the reality of the genocide should not be missed by anyone who appreciates powerfully compelling performances. "Ararat" is a brutal film containing recreations of Turkish atrocities, so it is definitely off limits to the kiddies, but it isn't horrific for the sake of sensationalism. This is a film worth watching more than once (and probably necessary to watch more than once in order to understand it)."
Do you know what still hurts?
(5 out of 5 stars)
"an armenian friend called me two weekends ago and invited me to see 'ararat'. he warned me that the movie's subject is genocide. although this isn't something i usually venture into the theaters for - i tend to use hollywood to escape reality - i went anyhow...this is the third egoyan movie i have seen in a theater - exotica was my first, the sweet hereafter was my second. each was a unique experience and i truly can say cannot be compared to ararat. ararat is a MOVIE about a HISTORICAL event validated by scholars, historians, eyewitnesses from the united states, england, france, germany, russia, etc. and even turkey. there is no doubt that the armenian genocide took place. the exact circumstances, motivations, numbers murdered, etc. are questioned - true. but the fact remains that a planned genocide by the turks against the armenians took place and this movie chronicles some of the horride eyewitness stories. the one i can still see when i close my eyes is the rape scene... now... i read the other reviews that were posted here before i went to type mine. i have to say that the reviews written against ararat were obviously politically motivated and seemingly anti-armenian. it is juvenile bickering at its best...do you know what still hurts? the hatred.see the movie. stop the animosity. begin the healing. enrich your knowledge of world history."
Very demanding and serious movie
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're into typical hollywood movies (action, sex, violence) this is not the movie for you...go watch the James Bond flick instead. There is one sex scene, some violence and a rape scene. The movie is not perfect (I thought the sex scene was not necessary), but it makes up for the shortcomings in many other ways.It is a very thought-provoking, multi-dimensional movie about one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century, the Armenian Genocide....beware that you can't blink or you'll miss a plot or two. This film is not a documentary about the Armenian Genocide. It is about the modern day lives of people that are impacted by the genocide (denial). I don't think this will do any justice in teaching about the Genocide to people that don't know much about it. The current politics of the denial are concealed in the many sub-plots throughout the movie.I watched the film last night and I'm still thinking about it and analyzing it with others. There are too many stories and plots in this film. I'm going to watch it again to get a grasp of everything that was happening."