Ararat (2002)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama, Ensemble Film  |   Release Date - Nov 15, 2002 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 126 min.  |   Countries - Canada  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Ararat addresses a very emotional historical issue, the 1915 Armenian massacre, in a relatively detached and cerebral manner. The film's nonlinear structure, deliberate pace, somewhat opaque characterization, and themes of obsession and dysfunctional family relationships won't come as a great surprise to viewers familiar with writer-director Atom Egoyan's other films. However, those who are unfamiliar with his previous work and expect a historical drama about the Armenian massacre may be surprised to find that he cultivates emotional distance by telling this historical tale through a film-within-a-film and intertwining this story with several murky subplots. Indeed, Ararat could be considered less a film about the massacre itself than an exploration of the nature of mediated images and the difficulty of discovering the truth, which are themes that Egoyan has explored in previous films as well. This approach results in a movie that's filled with interesting ideas (although perhaps not as original or provocative as Egoyan may have hoped) but isn't engaging on an emotional level. Furthermore, some parts of the film feel unresolved (such as Raffi's reasons for going to Turkey and the details behind his father's death) while others seem overly contrived (particularly the way Egoyan uses the sequences in which a customs official interrogates Raffi as a pretext to lecture the audience on Armenian history). Egoyan deserves credit for creating a film that addresses this important but often neglected part of history while simultaneously acknowledging the difficulty in using movies to tell history, but it's unfortunate that he didn't make a film that was less cryptic and more affecting.