Armenian Genocide on Film: Ararat

Ararat (2002)

FILM REVIEW; To Dwell on a Historic Tragedy or Not: A Bitter Choice

Published: November 15, 2002

The ideas jostling through ”Ararat,” Atom Egoyan’s profound reflection on historical memory, tumble off the screen in such heady profusion that while watching the movie you may worry that you’ll miss something important if you so much as blink. The catalytic event around which it spins those ideas is Turkey’s elimination through massacre and forced deportation of more than a million of its Armenian citizens (two-thirds of the country’s Armenian population) in 1915, a catastrophe that remains largely swept under the rug of world history.

Because Mr. Egoyan is Canadian-Armenian, ”Ararat” has an especially deep personal resonance. Throughout the film, you can feel him brooding passionately on questions of remembrance and denial in an obsessive quest for a way to take in the catastrophe without letting its anguish devour him. One paradoxical question that ”Ararat” confronts is whether it is possible to leave the past and its pain behind while retaining lessons that can be absorbed only by chewing on history’s bitter residue.