The Catastrophe:



The Catastrophe:

New film about the 1988 disaster

This September, the Armenian film industry and general cultural life has been experiencing real chaos. There were tough discussions over which movie deserved the right to represent Armenia and to be nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Thirty-two years old film director Sarik Andreasyan`s ‘The Earthquake’ was selected with three other movies (but was later disqualified by the Academy for too many Russian professionals involved in the production). This is one of few films that touches on the topic of the 1988 devastating Armenian earthquake, so the spotlight on it was intense from the very beginning. Film critic Diana Martirosyan has already watched ‘The Earthquake’ and tells us why the movie does not deserve so much attention.

Text : Diana Martirosyan

Who is Mr. Andreasyan?

Sarik Andreasyan is a director, who has managed to earn the reputation of a ‘Russian Ed Wood’. Realizing the fact that kitsch and distaste are more scandalous than monotony, Andreasyan almost takes up the rhythm of TV production and works as hard as a ‘komsomol’, giving great importance to social media. Currently, he is thirty-two years old and has already shot ten feature length and two short films during his stormy mainstream career. Some of them are remakes, the others just distasteful, based on a grotesque lifestyle, related to sex and vaudeville features. Just watching the trailer of Andreasyan`s ‘What do men do?’ is enough to get the message and to understand the Russian press, which stated on one occasion that romantic comedies, full of Hollywood clichés, can be considered to be on the level of Chekhov and Dostoyevsky, compared to Andreasyan-like directors. By the way, this was said made about Andreasyan’s ‘Happy New Year to Mothers’, which is a relatively less trashy ‘phenomenon’.
Andreasyan`s phenomenon is probably related to the idea of guilty pleasure. However, the Russian audience is ashamed of accepting the fact that they need to watch such kind of films of local production while eating popcorn once or twice a year. Otherwise, there exists no other explanation for such success of the director and his ongoing activity.

Why Gyumri?

After the failed thriller starring Adrien Brody, ‘American Heist’, along with his brother and partner Ghevond and a major Russian producer Ruben Dishdishyan, Andreasyan began to shoot ‘The Earthquake’, a film about Gyumri and the 1988 disaster. Surprisingly the National Cinema Center of Armenia cooperated with the director of odious comedies, who does not even know Gyumri. As a result, we got the ‘Earthquake’, a featureless, inexpressive and ordinary movie, as average as its name. No directing idea, no writing and no artistic component.
The plot is not about the tragedy, its effects and consequences. It is about the heroes of an unintelligible movie, which almost always turns out to be an overdose of pathos. And the characters of the movie are incomplete from the dramaturgic point of view. The earthquake just serves as a background for the movie, which is full of simple and uninteresting dialogues, trivial and sketch-like scenes. There is no sense of completeness and Armenian mood (not counting vulgarly shown crosses and duduk in the soundtrack). The authors of the ‘The Earthquake’ have probably watched Oliver Stone’s ‘World Trade Center’ and exclaimed: “This is exactly what we need! A movie about an Armenian tragedy with scenes of grey ruins and heroes!”.

This is not Hollywood

In fact, this is not Sarik Andreasyan’s worst movie. This movie is patriotic, national, painful, tender and hits a sensitive nerve, and there is definitely no need to touch on this topic very often.
But let’s face it, this is just a commercial project for Andreasyan and Armenians along with the history of their country are just a way of making money for him. Generally, Andreasyan does not care about the fact that a Russian family, surrounded by people of Gyumri (with some of them looters), takes the central role in the movie. Lilit (Tatev Hovakimyan) and Robert (Viktor Stepanyan) also have leading roles in the movie, but their characters are incomplete and boring.
Although an Armenian, Andreasyan is not an Armenian director, he is a businessman living in Moscow, who, for instance, when in Hollywood, takes advantage and realizes all of the possible local clichés. In the case of ‘The Earthquake’ he must understand that Gyumretsis will never forgive him for this kind of an approach (and we have already heard the first angry comments from Gyumri citizens who have seen the film). This is not Hollywood, where on average 600 feature length films are released annually. This is Armenia, with no strictly formed cinematic style and lack of a sizeable film industry. And even only from the cinematic point of view this is not a film but a catastrophe, which has nothing in common with the word ‘earthquake’.