In his new film, Ararat, Atom Egoyan wants to get an emotional reaction out of its viewers. In this, it is successful but different viewers may have very different reactions. My friend, Orsola, who saw it with me found it exhilarating, whereas I felt like I was trapped and wanted to get out. The subject of Ararat is a difficult one and also one that is very close to the director, Egoyan. It concerns the genocide of the Armenians at the hands of the Turks in 1915. Egoyan is, at once, both east and west. He was born in Egypt of Armenian parents and then grew up in Western Canada. This film is also split. It is set in both Canada and Turkey, and in both the present and the past. Ararat tells the story of a group of Armenian-Canadians who are trying to make a movie about the genocide. So, we see the story of 1915 played out in scenes of the movie as it is shot while in the present day the characters are still trying to come to terms with it. Much of the turmoil of the Armenian past and present is seen through the eyes of a Canadian customs official (Christopher Plummer) who is interviewing a young Armenian man (David Alpay) who he suspects of smuggling.
The cast is very familiar if you have seen Egoyan's other films such as Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter. His wife, Arsinee Khanijan appears as she always does, as do two of Egoyan's favorite actors Bruce Greenwood and Elias Koteas. They both play actors in the movie within the movie. Eric Bogosian who has been missing in action since he made a splash with Talk Radio also appears, as does Charles Azvanour, the Armenian-French singer, who is having a big year. He was seen recently in The Truth About Charlie.
is a movie within a movie. I would have preferred just the one movie.
And this is where it didn't quite work for me. I felt the movie being made
in Ararat, about the genocide in 1915, was meant to be an educational
film for the audience. I felt like I was being constantly hit over the
head with it. I would have liked to have had just the one story of
the Armenians in the present day, dealing with this event which is as real
to them as if it happened yesterday. The characters in Egoyan's films
have always suffered some terrible loss, a loss so great that one can't
see how they could ever recover from it. Ararat is no different
except that the loss was suffered by the parents and grandparents of the
characters. It is very raw stuff. Like I said, Egoyan is good at
getting an emotional reaction from his audience. I just feel like
this one got away from Egoyan because he couldn't distance himself enough
from the material. But go and see it. Like few other directors,
you want Egoyan to keep making movies. Even his not so good ones are good.