During the weekend a big film premiere was held in Armenia: Karin Hovannisian and Alec Mouhibian’s film “1915” was screened in Yerevan and Gyumri. This was the most important film premiere of this season. Logically the importance of the movie was largely based on the factor of the events commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. It should be stated that it was important for all the Armenians (and not only for film lovers) to see a film about the topic of the genocide that has been made right by Armenians. In this sense “1915” was expected.
But it can be stated that “1915” was marked not only by an impressive premiere. It had its place “fixed” among the international films about the Armenian Genocide. In fact, the film is mainly “foreign” in spite of the nationality of the film makers, and if I quote the co-director Karin Hovhannisian (the exclusive interview with her soon), it is “beautiful”.
The film is beautiful in its interpretation, aesthetics and also in its message. The film does not offer the audience a massacre, raping and other barbaric actions that show the suffering of the Armenians only on the surface, and the deep psychological aspects are almost always not paid much attention to.
Only the actor Simon Abkarian can be seen in this movie from the traditional ones about the genocide (Arsine Khanjyan does not play, instead we can see the “actors” Serj Tankian, Armine Hovhannisyan, the director’s mother and Raffi Hovannisian’s wife appearing in the shot), and also the “sticky” musical motive: “Ari im sokhak”. The same musical element can be found in the Tavianins “The Lark Farm” with the song “Ov sirun, sirun”, in Akin’s film “The Cut”. In this case the choice of the musical motive is more logical, it is explained at the end of the film: in fact the core of the film is Angela’s choice, will an Armenian woman, who is married and has a child, run away with a Turk, when she is told that all the Armenians will be indiscriminately killed, and she has, to put it bluntly, “a chance”? The real motives of Angela’s choice are alluded during the film, but they become fully comprehensible at the end of the film. Angela makes her choice not only for the temptation of staying the only Armenian alive…
But during a significant part of the movie it seems that the hero is more the victim of her maniac director husband, then the victim of the genocide. Her director husband, who is staging the play “1915”, is treating Angela almost the way that Hitchcock treated his actors by making them psychotic in order to gain the necessary effect. The aesthetics and the psychological load are created via the “documentary material” of the pictures, the titles of English language press, the news release that is being heard.
Anyways, the main performers, both Simon Abkarian and Angela Sarafian, are impressive. The director Hovhannisian says that the “secret” of the film is Angela. I will add that the actors are Armenians but are the members of the western school of acting, and this factor makes the film “foreign” and not a stereotypical Armenian film. From the point of view of the Armenian Genocide the film is extremely unique. The film making crew has had two years for the idea and 20 days for shooting in order to render this story in this way.
The main shooting area is one of the ancient theaters “Los Angeles”, among the founders of which is Charlie Chaplin. The esthetics is very nice. In general such retro theatres are mainly used in impressive musical clips. Fears were raised that I can watch something of the “TV show” format, but fortunately that fear didn’t come true. Instead the translation causes a significant damage to the film: mainly the words of Russian origin, and the reiteration made by the prominent local artists.
Let’s hope that the directors Mouhibian and Hovhannisian won’t share the fate of their hero Simon, who is strongly criticized by the Armenian audience in the film. We can speak about the film as it is an important and unique event. The “1915” also explains in a new why the Turks massacred Armenians. On the psychological level the directors clearly register that the Armenians were killed as they constantly made the Turks feel that Turkey is not so much their land…
And on the other side the film “1915” created and added a very bitter feeling to all the feelings of the tragedy of 1915. While watching this film I thought that the genocide is a nightmare and all the nation that have gone through it will not rest. Nevermore.
“Welcome 1915”: this is the line with which the “Los Angeles” theater head “invites” the audience to this different 1915.
Davit P. Vardazaryan