clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Film review: Ararat

To use a cinematic metaphor, the main problem with "Ararat" is that it seems to be a bit out of focus . . . in story content that is, not camera work.

As a result, this Canadian drama — probably the zillionth movie over the past couple of years to feature the film-within-a-film conceit — seems a bit unsure of what it's trying to say. Also, in places the film could be accused of being too aloof, while in others it's ridiculously over-the-top and melodramatic.

Still, it does shed some light on a rarely discussed and little-known piece of world history — the slaughter of nearly a million Armenians by Turkish soldiers in 1915. Consequently, it's not easy to shake or dismiss.

Like the bulk of work by writer-director Atom Egoyan, "Ararat" follows several characters and is full of flashbacks. The central story line involves Raffi (David Alpay), who's been stopped at Toronot customs after returning from Turkey.

Raffi is carrying several cannisters with him that he doesn't want opened, and that has

made a customs inspector (Christopher Plummer) extremely suspicious about the young man and his claim that they contain film being shot for a feature on the Armenian genocide.

Raffi's mother, an art-history professor (Arsinee Khanjian, Egoyan's significant other), is consulting on the feature, and she's also contending with her rebellious stepdaughter (Marie-Josee Croze), who just happens to be Raffi's lover.

Egoyan does a nice job of integrating Mychael Danna's elaborate and effective score. And there are a few stand-out scenes, most of them about the filmmaking process. But using the interrogation scenes for exposition purposes seems wrong, and they aren't convincing.

Even the acting is inconsistent. Egoyan regular Elias Koteas is terrific as Ali, one of the actors in the film-within-a-film. But as Ali performing as an actor, he's awful.

"Ararat" is rated R for graphic scenes of violence (shootings, stabbings and explosive mayhem), occasional use of strong sex-related profanity, gore, glimpses of full female nudity, drug content (drug discussion and handling of heroin and marijuana), simulated sex and a scene depicting rape and other sexual violence. Running time: 115 minutes.