Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Ararat and the Event of the Mother

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Ararat and the Event of the Mother

Article excerpt

Résumé: Cet article emploie Ie concept deleuzien de l'événement comme modèle pour élucider le regard que pose Egoyan sur le génocide arménien dans Ararat Comme l'événement deleuzien, l'événement de l'holocauste arménien échappe aux conditions rigides de la représentation. Son auto-génération et ses modifications continuelles se prêtent plutôt à un paradigme performatif capable d'expliquer le statu de non-complétude de l'événement : ses effets de réverbération dans le passé, le présent et l'avenir. Dans Ararat, la force persistante de l'événement ne se retrouve pas dans l'une de ses nombreuses manifestations médiatiques (film, conférence, photographie, peinture, vidéo), mais dans l'effet de réverbération de ces différentes reconstitutions. La force de l'événement se situe dans sa transitivité et sa dispersion, sa capacité d'exister dans plusieurs espaces et plusieurs temps simultanément. Ainsi, plutôt que de viser une actualisation fixe et restrictive de l'événement par l'intermédiaire d'une interprétation documentaire ou d'une représentation fictive des faits, Ararat « contre-actualise » le génocide arménien en convertissant cet événement en son noyau affectif : l'événement de la mère.

Confronting the problem of cinema's relation to historical catastrophe seems the foremost concern in Atom Egoyan's Ararat (Canada/France, 2002). The film takes on this enormous challenge as it asks the question of whether and how the cinema may be able to project the frightening dimensions of the real, particularly when this act of projection involves acts of violence that escape all manner of rational measurement or justification. In this essay, I will draw on Gilles Deleuze's notion of the "event" in The Logic of Sense to trace what I regard as Ararat's performative response to this question. Whether one considers the Deleuzian event from a cinematic or a historical perspective, the event is not syn- onymous with an actual state of affairs at a particular point in time, but it is rather the affective and virtual chain of effects that are incited by an actual state of affairs. If in the context of cinema the event cannot be simply identified with a "scene," in a historical context, the event cannot be relegated to its punctual occurrence in the past. While the classic cinematic scene is tied to space and time and is framed by a specific medium, the film event is not bound within either of these limits, rather spilling over a series of scenes, times, and even other media. The historical event is similarly transitive and unbound insofar as it continues to generate effects across different states of affairs-different geographical, temporal, and social configurations, and heterogeneous sets of human relations. To examine Ararat from the Deleuzian perspective on the event is thus to consider the film not as a representational rendition of a series of political and historical incidents that are temporally, territorially, and ontologically circumscribed, but it is rather to consider the film itself as a constitutive part of an ongoing, unfinished, event. It is, ultimately, to regard the film event and the historical event as converging in a chain of event effects that does not withstand the temporal, spatial, and ontological distinctions that govern the relation between the real and its representations.

As Lisa Siraganian has noted, Ararat disappointed some reviewers who were expecting a more classical approach to the representation of the Armenian genocide.1 Instead of offering an authoritative version of this event, the film's primary aim is to stress the event's capacity to subsist and insist beyond its factual manifestation in the past. To the question of how to preserve this power, how to enable it instead of exhausting it, the film provides a performative answer. The affective resonance that truly gives expression to the event, the film seems to say, cannot be found in any single isolated performance, story, or medium, but, more productively, in the resonating effects between different media performances and in the affects generated therein. …

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