Canada, 2002, 130 minutes, Colour.
David Alpay, Arsinee Kajnjain, Christopher Plummer, Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Brent Carver, Marie- Josee Croze, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas.
Directed by Atom Egoyan.
A master-work from Canadian Atom Egoyan, a culmination of a development from small-budget features to mature works. Here, Mt Ararat becomes a location and a symbol for the Armenian heritage of so many Canadians including Egoyan and his wife Arsinee Khanjian. Egoyan works on many satisfying levels here: a narrative about a family where the mother is an expert on painter Arshille Gorky, her son still unsettled by his father's attempt to assassinate a Turkish diplomat, his step-sister accusing the mother of killing her father; the making of a movie about the genocide of 1915; the interrogation of the son by a customs official on his return from filming on Ararat; the official's family tensions, including his son's relationship with the actor who plays the Turkish commander in the film. Ararat is a mosaic of different stories, of debates about Turkish- Armenian history, of Canada at the beginning of the 21st century. It includes powerful recreations of the genocide. A film to absorb and ponder.
1. The career of Egoyan, the quality of his cinema, the development from small films to this master work? His Armenian background? In Canada? His looking back to his origins? The history of the Turkish genocide of the Armenians in 1915? Egoyan's culture, inherited culture, Canadian culture? This film for Canadian audiences, Armenians and Turks, world-wide audiences?
2. His perspective on Armenia and the Turkish empire in 1915? Mount Ararat as a location and a symbol? The city of Van, the picturing of the genocide - and people arguing whether it was genocide or not? The effect on the Armenians, the slaughter of the women and children, the rapes, the atrocities? The cruelty of the Turks? The setting of World War I, the perceived threat from Russia? The commander and his orders? Hitler's comment that people had forgotten the Armenian genocide? The 21st century and the need to remember?
3. The historical accuracy of the film, facts and statistics, the eyewitness book of the doctor from America? The discussions whether it was genocide or not, a threat to Turkish security or not? The film-makers dramatising the story and introducing characters, making Mount Ararat nearer - for their particular perspective?
4. The effectiveness of the film within the film? The re-creation of 1915, the doctor at work in the hospital, the people and the threats, the scenes of ambush, the advancing Turks, Gorky and his going to get the rifle, the Turkish commander, his decisions, negotiations with the American doctor, the strategy about documents? The massacre? The way that the historical material was inserted into the film? Seeing the director and the writer, the actors? Ani and her consultation, watching the making, her comments on Mount Ararat, on Gorky? Her walking in angrily during the scene with the doctor and the actor taking over his character and his anger towards her? The group watching the filming, Raffi and his observations? The interpretation of the historical events within the context of the film-making? Ali's performance and his discussions with the director? The premiere of the film and the makers watching it?
5. The opening credits, the paintings of Gorky, the re-creation of 1934, in America, his studios, the memories of the photo? The inserting of these flashbacks into the film? Raffi's visit to Armenia, going to the island, seeing the sculpture of the Madonna, linking it with the photo, Gorky's ten years in doing the painting of the photo? Not finishing his mother's hands? His suicide? The film focusing on his mother's hands in the photo at the end of the film?
6. The character of Ani and her being a focus? Her migrant background, Armenian culture, lecturing at the university, writing the book on Gorky? The interest of the film-makers in her work and making her a consultant? Her relationship with Raffi, his father dying in the assassination attempt, being branded as a terrorist, in the files of the government? Her affair with Celia's father and his killing himself, suicide or accident? Her leaving him? Celia's interruptions to her lectures, wanting to talk about the suicide? The challenge to Raffi whether he sided with her or with Celia? The painting being slashed? Ani on the set, her anger and her walking through the performance and the challenge of Martin? Going to the premiere, leaving it and going to get Raffi? The discussions with him and what she was left with at the end?
7. Saroyan and his arrival in Canada, the pomegranate and his eating the seeds, the encounter with the Customs officer? His friendship with Rouben, their work together, rewrites, getting Ani as a consultant, going to the lectures? The discussions with Ali about the right or wrongs of the genocide? Getting Raffi to give him the bottle of champagne? At the premiere?
8. David and Christopher Plummer as the contemporary Canadian? At home, the Grace before meals, Philip and his relationship with Ali, David disapproving, the discussions about God and atheism? His talking to Philip in the car, telling him the story of the encounter with Raffi? His finally letting Raffi go? He knew that Raffi couldn't believe that he would smuggle drugs? Letting him go for Philip's sake? Understanding and tolerance, the issue of homosexuality? His being an inspector, but his also being confessor and his explanation of his experiences of talking with people, patience, their telling him the truth?
9. Ali and Phil, their relationship, Phil and his work at the museum, talking with Celia, seeing her slash the painting? Ali getting the part and coming to the museum? Ali and his acting, Turkish background? The strength of his performance - and his sense that people watching hated him? His leaving, wanting to discuss the genocide with Saroyan, with Raffi? The discussions in the car, his asking who cared, Raffi quoting Hitler? The bottle of champagne?
10. Celia and her background, her love for Raffi, their sexual relationship? Interrupting Ani, preoccupied about her father and his death? Slashing the painting? The discussion with Ani and the flashbacks to what happened with her father? Her smuggling drugs, being confined to the institution?
11. Raffi and his heritage, his father dying when he was young, not coming to grips with his being a terrorist and the assassination attempt? His love for Celia, opting for her, arguing with his mother? Leaving home and returning? His being on the set, driving Ali and others? His growing understanding by watching the film? Raffi's going to Armenia, the filming, Ararat, the island, the Madonna? Being allowed into Ararat and promising to take the film back, not believing they were drugs? The discussions with David, telling his story, David as interrogator and confessor? His intruding into Raffi's work, yet knowing the truth? The drugs, not turning the light on, Raffi believing it was film, the fact that it was heroin? Raffi explaining to Celia that in that moment he experienced something of a father, David as a catalyst for his understanding? David experiencing a relationship to a son and its having an effect on his relationship to Philip?
12. Audiences watching a film about the Armenian genocide, its relevance to the 21st century? Ali advocating letting it be, or the examination of history and new interpretations and the need to remember?