Pomexpress Review: Akhtamar

January 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm (media, nationalism) (, , , , , , , , )

Akh.

After eagerly anticipating a gem of corporate nationalist propaganda, I was thoroughly disappointed on multiple fronts by the Ararat Bandy production, Akhtamar – a short film by the Shammasian brothers.  The Armenianness of the “legend retold” is reduced to hackneyed national images: Mt. Ararat, Garni, Republic Square.  The taxi driver character eats a pomegranate and drinks coffee for a full five minutes.  In the grand tradition of Armenian cinema, Akhtamar was super boring.

All of the language choices in the film were odd.   The Armenian language is practically

Tamar Credit: Addis Zaryan

absent and, while I knew from the start that the young actors were not Armenian (he is Russian and she Uzbek), I was unprepared for the award-winning old Armenian guy to speak only Russian.   Furthermore, the compulsory subtitles are only available in English.  These decisions were clearly motivated brandy marketing: the Russian market drinks up 85% of the Yerevan Brandy Company’s exports.  The Russian language makes the film accessible to much of the former Soviet Union while English subtitles cater to a broader brandy-drinking audience.  That leaves only Armenian speakers with the short end of the bottle.

Akhtamar is billed as the “first in a series of legends retold;” however, the most egregious offense is the absence of a ‘retelling’ of the fable itself.  A retelling is defined as a new version of a story.  In Akhtamar, the legend is simply told, and poorly, by the taxi driver.  There is no adaptation of the plot to suit modern Armenia and it is questionable whether the uninitiated would even understand the original tale.  The film contains a love and love interest, but several major elements of the tale are missing: there is no torch or swimming, or rough waters, or death.  In short, the short is not a retelling of the legend of Akhtamar.

Ararat brandy’s Akhtamar is an Akhtamar-lite film with unremarkable performances by CIS eye-candy and a problematic, one-note plot.  With some visual and narrative inconsistencies thrown into the mix, Akhtamar leaves viewers craving an authentic retelling served up with a snifter of brandy.

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