The Cut: the Armenian Genocide, as seen by Fatih Akin
by Domenico La Porta
- VENICE 2014: The latest film by Fatih Akin is in competition at the Venice Film Festival and tells the story of the epic quest of a mute father, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide who crosses the globe in search of his family
The seventh art has never been one to feature the Armenian Genocide, an event that occurred during World War One, too heavily. With The Cut [+see also:
interview: Fatih Akin
interview: Tahar Rahim
film profile], German director Fatih Akin has created an ambitious film on the subject, which nevertheless suffers from excessive didacticism and a surprising linearity where one would actually have expected all the subtlety that the director of Soul Kitchen [+see also:
film profile] had us accustomed to. His first English-language film is more impressive because of the power of the subject it tackles than it is because of the performance of its actors, who are obviously less at ease speaking English than they are their mother tongue. And when the lead character loses his voice, the dramatisation becomes overly effusive in order to offset this narrative choice. The loss of faith, for example, is represented by a man who has evidently had his fingers burned and is now throwing pebbles up at the heavens – but perhaps the audience could have settled for less exaggerated evidence. The film would certainly have gained some realism throughout, even though it is still very convincing at certain times, particularly during its more violent sequences.
When the Ottomans decide to wipe out the Christian minorities from the face of their empire, blacksmith Nazaret (Tahar Rahim) is torn from his village of Mardin and from his family – a wife and twin daughters – in order to boost the ranks of workers who are being forced to build roads in the desert. Following the massacring of his group, of which he is the sole survivor, Nazaret sustains a throat injury and is left mute. However, he manages to escape and sets out on an almost decade-long trek to find his family – from Lebanon to the United States, via Cuba.
The film is split into chapters by cards that mention the places and time periods involved. This structure and a tempo that strings together moments of hope and of disappointment at a fairly regular pace sometimes make the film’s progression laborious, and even repetitive, especially in the third act. The fact that Tahar Rahim is mute forces him to wear an intense emotional burden on his face, and this then means his interlocutors have to chatter away a lot more than normal (“It’s me, Levon, your old apprentice”, just one line among many others that are aimed more at the audience than at the interlocutor). This array of clumsy moments does not take anything away from the historical drama that the film brings very emotionally to the screen and to everyone’s attention. Nevertheless, The Cut is a title that could be advisable for the more commercial circuit – or even the educational one – rather than that which brings together the most die-hard fans of directing and cinematic storytelling.
The Cut was written by Mardik Martin, an American screenwriter of Iranian heritage who had not penned a single screenplay since he co-wrote the excellent Raging Bull with Martin Scorsese 34 years ago. This Herculean co-production brings together a huge number of countries – namely, Germany, France, Poland, Turkey, Italy, Canada and Russia. The film is sold by Match Factory.
(Translated from French)