A somewhat trivial title for a film grounded in long-held sorrow. The original title, Une Histoire de Fou gives perhaps a more meaningful name – A History of Madness. This is a French film but it is about Armenia and the repercussions of the massacre of more than one million Armenians by the Ottoman government during and after the first World War. You may be like me and several French characters in the movie to say, “Where’s Armenia?”. How could I not know about this part of history?
The film begins in the past and we see an Armenian assassinate the government minister who gave the order for the removal of the Armenian people. A trial is held and this is where we learn the detail of what happened and engage emotionally with the plight of the displaced people who have lost everything. Fast forward fifty years to 1970s Marseilles and we see an Armenian family living a quiet and assimilated life. It is only the grandmother of the family who still carries the rage but this begins to permeate the family until son, Aram, leaves to join a group of militants.
What follows is an exploration of the choices we make when we have no voice. I couldn’t help but think of Australian Aboriginal people, removed from their land and without the power to regain what they have lost. So too with the Armenian people, scattered across the world and kept from their traditional lands, now a part of Turkey. For Aram, he must reconcile the collateral damage he causes through using violence and we can see that there is no simple answer to this.
There is a lyrical beauty to much of this film, even in blighted landscapes and crumbling Beirut we see the poetry of light and dark and movement. A couple of the characters stood out, particularly Aram’s mother, who is the symbol, I think, for the heart of the Armenian people. There is an exquisite scene, right toward the end, where Aram’s father dances. Simple and eloquent.