Duelling with Faith and Fate | Sunday Observer
Film review

Duelling with Faith and Fate

24 May, 2020

A story set in the early stages of the First World War, delving into how lives of people in the Ottoman Empire were torn asunder by brutal policies of forced labour and genocide, ‘The Cut’ directed by Fatih Akin, is a historical drama film that moves like a saga across national borders, oceans and communities. It is an epic that is perhaps a controversial film as well given the politics it portrays. This German language film released in 2014 and elected to compete at the Venice Film Festival for the much coveted Golden Lion was screened at the Goethe Institute in Colombo on January 31 this year.

A German language film that narrates a story geographically situated in Turkey and moves to Syria, Cuba and then the United States, Akin’s movie looks at the gruesome crimes that the Ottomans did to the Armenians, who are a Christian minority within the Ottoman Empire, and how the life of an Armenian blacksmith named Nazareth Manoogian (played commendably by Tahar Rahim) living in the city of Mardin, in Turkey, is shattered after he is taken away under forced conscription policies of the Sultan of Turkey.

Nazareth who enjoys a peaceful life with his wife, twin daughters and extended family, learn of how the growing war efforts of the Turkish government are becoming dangerous for their own existence since Armenians are being taken away to serve the war effort.

One night, soldiers arrive in Nazareth’s neighbourhood and forcibly take away Nazareth as a conscript, and he and his fellow forced conscripts are made to work on a road construction in a desert area. Their existence is practically a form of enslavement. They are for all intents and purposes made into slaves under the guns and whips of the mounted Ottoman soldiers.

The turning point in the narrative happens after Nazareth and his fellow Armenians at the forced labour camp are offered the opportunity a way out of their misery by accepting to convert to Islam and abandon the Christian faith. Some accept the offer, evoking the contempt and disdain of those who remain faithful to their religion.

The next day Nazareth and his fellow Armenians realise that the soldiers have left the campsite along with the converts.

However their relief and rejoice at the assumption that they have been offered a means of freedom is short lived. A group of soldiers arrive with a gang of convicts who have been recruited solely for the purpose of killing Armenians.

However the man who is tasked with killing Nazareth doesn’t possess the mindset of a cold blooded killer and under pressure to carry out the killing, botches up the ‘execution’ by failing to cut deep enough into Nazareth’s throat.

Although believed to be dead, it turns out that Nazareth is actually alive and is later rescued by the very man who was forced to take his life. They form a bond and survive the inhospitable desert by joining a band of army deserters who are bandits robbing travellers.

Nazareth although as a result of the ‘cut’ has been made mute, desires to find his way back to Mardin to ascertain the fate of his family. The trek back to Mardin is one that tests the resolve of Nazareth to find closure to his unanswered question.

What he meets along the way gives him hope that there may yet be something to live for, while what he sees as the rampant misery and sorrow befallen his people was a thunderbolt that diminishes his faith in God’s mercifulness.

Eventually the travails lead Nazareth to learn that his two daughters were not killed in Mardin and are in fact alive. What possesses Nazareth from that point on, who though mute is yet virile in resolve in mind, is to reunite with his two daughters. The quest takes him from Turkey to Syria, Lebanon, Cuba and then the USA.

The end brings Nazareth closure. But while it is not the complete picture of joy he hoped for it is still more than mere consolation that he finds in the cold climates of North Dakota, where he discovers one of his daughters who tells Nazareth that her twin sister had died not long ago.

‘The Cut’ is a very well crafted powerful story, which builds on a strong sequence of events and presents good plot structure. It is a film worth watching, and one I would recommend without hesitation to those who enjoy drama films with a historical setting.

The Goethe Institute in Colombo must be applauded for presenting movie lovers, a screening of a very high quality drama movie as Akin’s ‘The Cut’.