Aghasi-Ayvazyan1We are presenting the interview conducted with Aghasi Ayvazyan by Siranush Galstyan. 15 years have passed but the conversation is still actual and seems to touch upon the events happening in the world today.  

“Mr. Ayvazyan,the 20th century was the century of cinema in some sense. However an educated person attended both cinema and theatre, and also read books. Today the computer and the internet seem to push out everything. People only tend to seek information. Can it lead to a complete deprivation of the soul?”

“In addition to the information, we have the life of a human being, his sufferings, mental world. As long as a person lives, he is to suffer. I don’t know if he suffers in front of a computer or a film screen, the suffering must be expressed somehow. A person will always live due to his sufferings. It is difficult to say what technical form cinema will take, but the source is a person. A camera or a computer cannot be sources, they just carry information. When reading Flaubert, Zola you see that they had a ready script in their books, humanity just made a technical invention. What is a dream? In this sense we have had cinema within ourselves for a long time. We cannot create something that does not exist in us. Now we enter a new stage. The 21st century must be the century of highly educated people. Our generation is partially educated. For example I have always wanted to know five, six language, but, unfortunately, the Soviet education system was designed so that almost no one from my generation doesn’t know any language in spite of the fact that a lot of foreign languages were taught at school and university. And it was imposed from the authorities: to teach in the manner that no one learns. Our previous generations, not everyone of course, received that education before the revolution. Now we should acquire computer skills”

“But aren’t people under threat of becoming robots, losing their human features?”

“We live together with computers. We don’t know where we are going. The longer we live, the more we feel that we are just small things. We can know nothing for sure: we face questions from the very beginning of our birth.”

“Is the civilization under the risk of exhaustion?”

“We deceive ourselves with civilization but live with nature. Civilization is against the nature and biology. If we follow civilization life will come to its end. That is why the winners are those people who are biologically stronger. Civilization is like a dress for them, something illusive. Notably, cinema is one of the expressions of civilization and there is something deceptive in it.”

“And what do we need to have films? Is it right to stress the importance of financial means for film production? Does the absence of environment matter?”

“We cannot take a step in the field of cinema without the necessary conditions and assets, especially today. There should be money and state. A film is a small state within a state. Even during the Soviet period “Hayfilm” was the face of our country. Cinema is the identity of a country not only in sense of aesthetics but also in its organization. Money is not the only condition, there are many things that depend on us. Film itself cannot be created. Even Griffith has stolen ideas and decors from Italians. Cinema is on the state level. If you have state you can have cinema. Georgians have always had state and have always understood the importance of cinema. Cinema has a representative nature, it presents the nation.”

“Cinema creates the collective image of the nation. Have we managed to do so?”

“Unfortunately no. In order to shoot a film temperament is needed rather than talent.”

“Can it be supposed that in the future the Armenian cinema will have the composition of a church in terms of aesthetics?”

“If we are speaking about film structure similar to the one of our churches, namely my favorite churches Hripsime and Gayane…such constructive scripts are seen in American and French cinema. It refers to aesthetics. Our films are far away from aesthetics, even the most succeeded ones…We have made attempts. During the filming of the “Triangle” I put forward that issue. I had no experience at that time. I didn’t know that a film had a production base…Once you are in the film making area you don’t belong to yourself. One worker can destroy a whole episode. There should be a constructive and creative group. In case of the books an inner connection is created with the readers. That connection is almost absent in cinema. There are some people who managed to create it. Pasolini, our Parajanov, Fellini. As for the Soviet films, they put forward pure ideological problems to conquer the screen. And everything, of course, should be constructive. See how constructive the best stories are in terms of their composition. It is difficult to image a more constructive work than Tumanyan’s “Giqor”. I am reading “Madame Bovary”, which is a ready-made film script in its composition. It is impossible to adapt it into a screenplay, as the novel will only spoil. Cinema is aesthetics first of all, it’s a sense of composition. And the composition is an inborn feature as painting. It cannot be taught. It is another thing that it can be sleeked as painting. But people are born with the sense of composition.”

“We often speak about the fact that there are many talented people in Armenia.”

“The environment plays an important role for creative people. We, Armenians, have always had a trouble in connection with the environment. I remember Hamo Sahyan’s suffering. He was living in the mountains and felt that he could do more, but he needed an environment for it. Paris was a center and it created poets and painters. Apollinaire was Polish, Ionesco was Romanian, and Modigliani was Jewish. Arshile Gorky is one of the founders of the American abstract expressionism, if not the founder. Should he had stayed in Armenia I don’t know what he would have achieved.”

“Or Ruben Mamulyan and Ruben Nakyan…”

“Yes. What would they do in Armenia? Or one of the greatest writers, William Saroyan. Many people are wrong when they consider him an American writer. He is an Armenian writer, he just wrote in English.”

“He said “I do not write in Armenian, but I look at the world in Armenian.”

“The Americans themselves don’t consider him an American writer. I think that there are many Aznavours in Armenia today but France created Charles Aznavour. Aram Khachatryan’s creator is Russia, not Armenia. Namely we are concerned as much as genes are ours. Armenian theatre was created by Vakhtangov in Moscow. “Turandot” is the most Armenian performance. And the performance died when not staged by Armenians. They are trying to resume it now but it didn’t survive after Simonov.”

“Are we left with nothing but to be proud of our compatriots who have established themselves in abroad?”

“All the world made use of the music of Aram Khachaturian, except the Armenians. We are looking for someone who has refused to be an Armenian for a long time and declare that he is an Armenian. Just make use of his nationality as an Armenian. Komitas gave us our voice when we didn’t know in what voice to speak. As we haven’t had a state, we don’t have our own voice, although there are some people who struggle for it. Charents gave us words, speech. He was a genius, a great poet, especially during the last period of his life. He would become a worldwide phenomenon in Europe.”

 “The destinies of the Armenian artists who have established themselves here are exceptional, whereas self-establishment in abroad seems to be a natural phenomenon”

“Even if there is nothing to disturb them there are still inner centrifugal facts that repel people. We are to blame as we are not united. You should have some goal: either aesthetic or national. Especially our nation has its own national goal. When we look back to our epic, medieval period, history, monasteries and churches they remind us of our goal. Hripsime is a composition of a whole film: an example of a constructive work.”

“How to make use of our heritage? Do we lack will to implement our potential?”

“Even Khorenatsi has called on us to be united, so did Charents. Unfortunately we all understand it but we don’t manage to get together. Georgians might not understand it but they manage to be united. We are a small nation and have few opportunities. Our possibilities are terrible and suffocate us. That is why people run away from here. But the bad life is not the only reason why people leave. What I am saying is cruel but I have lived a long life and I know that this is our nature. An Armenian child tends to turn to France, USA and Russia. I don’t call it alienation, it is something mystical. We haven’t had statehood for two thousand years, and now we are trying to create one. It is difficult to understand what God has prepared for us and why we are the way we are. We are unique: neither bad nor good. We are exceptional with our identity and are different from the others. We are tough people and say everything to the face. We like Greek theatre, we are brought up in this way. We cannot stage Chekhov, and only a few of us can watch it. I had another wish. We had an opportunity to turn Armenia into the aesthetic center of the Caucasus with our architecture, music and painting. No other nation has so high quality architects as we have. See how Yerevan is being constructed in such narrow conditions. We have built cities in different places. Our painters are scattered around the world …”

“There was no freedom during the Soviet period, and now are we suffering from “excessive” freedom?”

“There is only one rule for human existence: moral constitution. Once you violate it you will undermine physically, from inside. We shouldn’t forget it. Gogol suffered from it, and many others did in the West. We were forbidden to think about it but the suffering existed. Suffering exists in a free country as well: they suffer from freedom. It is a paradox: you are free to choose there but you might destroy yourself if you lose your inner moral constitution. The target of Truffaut’s film “Jules and Jim” is the freedom. A woman is free to choose and men have allowed it. You see an Armenian man will never allow his wife to love another person. We are created so that it is impossible to imagine such a thing, because the Armenian nation will undermine and vanish. There are some things that should be restrained inside, even a feeling should be limited. If you allocate a very big place to love it will lead you to death. Germans have such a theory in psychiatry. Thus there is an inner degree of freedom: you should not allow yourself to cross the level and should not wait for someone to tell you so. And church keeps us human whether you are a believer or not. The Bible presents the human constitution in the language of fables. There is no logic in the Bible but there is wisdom. Logic and wisdom are opposite concepts, i.e. it is impossible to understand something that is understandable. The Bible tells us what is to be accepted as a sensory law. No matter how much Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol suffered they eventually realized that there is a bit of lie in all the beautiful things they wrote…You don’t approach God.”