One of the least well-kept world secrets is the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. It seems to be only a secret to world leaders, although the Pope recently acknowledged it, this being the 100th anniversary, and the Turks responded by recalling their ambassador to the Vatican.
So, yeah, they’re probably trying to avoid being known as the ones who gave Hitler all his Swell Ideas™. The blame for the intellectual underpinning should probably go to Ernst Rüdin, but the Turks were an important example of a genocide that had gone well for the genocidal. Well, with some caveats that would become the inspiring force behind the word “genocide”.
Which brings us to this odd little film, 1915. This is the story of Simon (played by Simon Akbarian, whom we just saw in Gett), a playwright/theater owner who is coming out a seven-year retirement with his wife, Angela (Angela Sarafyan, Marion Cotillard’s sick sister in last years The Immigrant) to put on a play about the genocide that is being protested by both Turks and Armenians.
The Turks, we’ve already covered. Why the Armenians? Well, at the end of his play, Angela abandons her mother and child to run off with a Turkish colonel, and the Armenians aren’t happy about that.
Meanwhile, Simon and Angela have their own tragedy, which they’re using the play to work through. Simon’s got some Method/hypnosis thing he’s running on Angela, where she becomes the person she’s playing from 100 years. And this sort of goofy device is a way to get her character to face up to what happened in 1915, and the modern day Angela to face up to her own tragedy.
We also got a possibly haunted theater that’s on the ropes financially, mysterious threatening phone calls, and a transvestite reporter wandering around asking questions.
This is a movie that takes a lot of chances, and they don’t all pay off. The haunted thing doesn’t go anywhere. The threatening phone calls are pretty irrelevant. I didn’t get the whole thing with the brother and the reporter. The theater being on the ropes financially was all right if unnecssary. The attempt at magical realism isn’t entirely successful, nor is the mapping between the personal tragedy and the genocide.
And yet. The main thrust of the story (“You have to acknowledge the past to move forward”) ultimately does work. The Boy, while liking this, sort of missed the point: He thought the Big Reveal was the uncovering of the Angela’s mystery which, since we both saw it coming about 15 minutes into the movie, wasn’t really a big reveal.
I liked it more because, at the climax of the movie, I saw the point not as revealing things we all know happened, but admitting that we survive today because people in the past chose to survive, even if we look back disdainfully on the context of those choices. (This is a similar sentiment to what we see in The Last of the Unjust.)
We do that a lot: We scorn our ancestors as if our life choices were so much harder and we navigate them so much better.
Very low budget but with some nice camerawork, especially inside the Los Angeles Theater, where most of the action takes place. The small cast is rounded out by Jim Piddock (A Mighty Wind), Sam Page (lots of popular TV shows like “Mad Men” and “Gossip Girl”), Debra Cristofferson (whom I remember best as one of Nathan Lane and Lee Evans’ dates in Mousehunt, but she’s been a ton of stuff), young Sunny Suljic (a Bosnian actor!), and the lovely Courtney Halverson.
Creepy brother is played by Nikolai Kinski who, as creepy as he is, is only a fraction as creepy as his dad. Thank God.
Anyway, game effort. Some of the rough spots may be off-putting but I ultimately found it moving and effective.