At the centennial of the Ottoman Turks’ genocide of Armenians, Turkish-German director Fatih Akin gives one of the most ambitious big-screen treatments of those atrocities: “The Cut,” a sweeping odyssey through three continents following one survivor’s quest to locate his loved ones.
Tahar Rahim of “A Prophet” stars as Nazaret Manoogian, an Armenian blacksmith drafted in 1915 to become a soldier, only to wind up a laborer paving roads. When his group of Armenians is to be slaughtered, Nazaret is spared and rescued by the executioner, convicted petty thief Mehmet (Bartu Küçükçaglayan), but is rendered mute in the process.
Nazaret then journeys to the Ras al-Ayn concentration camp; Aleppo, Syria; Havana; Tampa, Fla.; Minneapolis; and finally Ruso, N.D., in hopes of reuniting with his family. Along the way, he witnesses some horrific sights and himself commits a mercy killing. Director Akin does not make Nazaret out to be a saint. On multiple occasions, Nazaret chooses self-preservation over helping others.
Interestingly, Nazaret’s experience as a refugee in America nearly mirrors the one as a fugitive in the Ottoman Empire. This depiction could be seen as an allegory of the millions who have been displaced by the Syrian war and continue to fight for their survival as refugees.
Atom Egoyan’s 2002 “Ararat” had been perhaps the most notable film to tackle the Armenian genocide, but it did so only anecdotally. The historical epic approach seems long overdue, and Akin does it justice.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes.
Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles; Laemmle’s Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena.