Synopsis: In 1915 a man survives the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire, but loses his family, speech and faith. One night he learns that his twin daughters may be alive, and goes on a quest to find them.
Release Date: October 2, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, History
For the past ten or so years, Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin has been quietly making his Love, Faith, and The Devil trilogy of movies. The Love part came in 2004 with Head On. The Faith installment was a few years later in 2007, when Akin made The Edge of Heaven. Now, the trilogy is complete with the Devil portion, the epic war/adventure movie The Cut.
The Cut is about an Armenian blacksmith named Nazaret Mahoogian (The Past‘s Tahar Rahim), a Christian resident of the Ottoman Empire during World War I who is taken away from his wife and twin daughters for the war effort. Instead of sending him to the front lines to fight, the government puts him to work building roads. A tribe of mercenaries kidnaps the group of roadbuilders, ties them together, and slits their throats. Nazaret’s would-be executioner loses his nerve at the last second and doesn’t kill his captive, only cuts his neck in a non-lethal way (this is The Cut to which the title of the film refers). Nazaret plays dead and is left with the corpses, but his neck wound has left him mute. He can’t go home out of fear of being killed with the rest of the Armenians, so he wanders around the desert, seeing horrible atrocities everywhere he looks. When the war ends, he hears that his wife was killed, but his two girls have survived. He then makes it his life’s mission to find them, and his quest takes him all over Asia, Europe, and North America.
Clocking in at about two and a half hours, The Cut is a sprawling epic movie. Unlike many movies of that length, it doesn’t feel long, most likely because of the grand scope of the story. The script was written by Fatih Akin and Mardik Martin (one of Scorsese’s secret weapons, co-writer of Raging Bull and Mean Streets), and it’s episodic in structure, with Nazaret living little snippets of life while he chases his ultimate goal. And the snippets of life that he lives and the things that he sees are horrible, sickening, and repulsive. But they’re also fascinating.
The reason that The Cut is The Devil portion of Akin’s trilogy is because of the atrocities that Nazaret sees during his journeys. Nazaret loses faith, both in religion and humanity, due to the things he sees, horrible things like mass murder, rape, starving people, and torture. The backdrop of the film is the Armenian Genocide by the Ottomans, a massacre that is held in the same regard as the Holocaust by many. So, the point is, Nazaret sees plenty of the Devil in people during his travels. The ironic thing is that his entire journey is motivated by love – the love he has for his family.
Even though it is set a hundred years ago, The Cut is a modern journeyman’s tale that would be right at home somewhere within the confines of Greek mythology. It may be the Devil portion of Akin’s trilogy, but there’s plenty of love, hope, and even faith in the movie. It’s about optimism in the face of tragedy, about the triumph of the human spirit over the obstacles that stand in front of it. And it’s beautiful to look at, too – even the ugly parts. The Cut is long, and the characters speak six different languages over the course of the film (except for Nazaret, who doesn’t speak), but if you can get past those hurdles, it’s an essential viewing experience.
The Cut is essentially a western at heart, and it’s shot like one. Fatih Akin and cinematographer Rainer Klausmann (The Invasion) chose to use anamorphic lenses and to shoot in CinemaScope on 35mm film to capture the sweeping hills and desolate valleys. The movie is full of wide angles and long shots, and the film’s look is very warm – almost hot and steamy, like a desert. The Cut is set in half a dozen different countries, and Akin made the decision to shoot on location for most of them, taking the production to Jordan, Malta, Germany, and Cuba. The only exception was that the American scenes were shot in Cuba and Canada because of the strict American union laws. So, not only does the photography looks great, but the locations that are being captured are authentic and stunning. The Cut is an ambitious film, and the cinematography reflects that fact.
There are some cool musical things happening in The Cut. Actually, there’s a singular cool musical thing. The music doesn’t really reflect the time period or the part of the world where the film takes place. The score was written by Alexander Hacke from the industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, and the music is mostly quirky little guitar harmonies that are played ad nauseum throughout the movie. The musical pieces are cool, and they’re well done, but they’re monotonous, and seem to go on forever. Still, Hacke and Akin get bonus points for trying something different with the soundtrack for The Cut, and if it wasn’t a two and a half hour movie, the musical themes might not get so tiring. It’s a fun little score, though.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Fatih Akin
- Producer(s): Fatih AkinKarl BaumgartnerReinhard BrundigFabienne Vonier
- Screenwriter(s): Fatih AkinMardik Martin
- Cast: Tahar Rahim (Nazaret Manoogian)Zein Fakhoury (Arsinée)Dina Fakhoury (Lucinée) Simon Abkarian (Krikor)Makram Khoury (Omar Nasreddin)Hindi Zahra (Rakel)Kevork Malikyan (Hagob Nakashian)Bartu Küçükçaglayan (Mehmet)Arsinée Khanjian (Mrs. Nakashian)Akin Gazi (Hrant)Shubham Saraf (Levon)George Georgiou (Vahan)
- Editor(s): Andrew Bird
- Cinematographer: Rainer Klausmann
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Katrin Aschendorf
- Casting Director(s): Lara AtallaBeatrice Kruger
- Music Score: Alexander Hacke
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: GermanyFrance