There’s no mistaking that “Deadline in Seven Days,” a surreal noirish thriller with Kafkaesque overtones, is one of a kind. Scripter-helmer Ara Ernjakian’s audacity and love of moviemaking reveal themselves in an onslaught of sparkling images. Stylized pic will not be to everyone’s taste, but pic’s originality should make its mark with fest and art house auds.
Set in a timeless present, pic’s hero is Khatchadour (Ashad Adanian), an idealistic and conscientious doctor who has always trusted the system and human nature.
His faith is challenged, however, when he witnesses a bus accident that the government tries to hush up. He rushes to the hospital to question the man he saved from the crash, only to be told, “What are you talking about, I was fixing my roof and I fell off.”
Khatchadour’s investigation of the incident entangles him in an all-encompassing political conspiracy, and he soon realizes that no one can be trusted in the corrupt totalitarian state.
Pic is also a tale of passionate romance. Khatchadour meets his love interest (the beautiful Nora Armani) at a bus stop by chance. When her envious girlfriend drags her into the bus, he doesn’t give up.
He surprises her at the next bus stop, and the next, finally waiting at her destination with an orchestra playing a waltz. Initially swept up by this strange courtship, she soon tires of it and when he tells her about the media’s lies in covering up the accident, she doesn’t share his concern.
Subjected to police brutality and false accusations, Khatchadour decides to leave, with story progressing to a Kafkaesque climax.
For long stretches, “Deadline” keeps its dialogue kept to a minimum. Language is often metaphorical, but makes perfect sense in pic’s allegorical context.
Strong in poetic imagery, pic is ambitious but not pretentious. Arto Melkoumian’s dark, atmospheric lensing, often permeated by rain and smoke, creates an ominous nightmare, reflecting the surreal vision of an increasingly paranoid state of mind.
The recurrent visual motif is that of a huge military tank in the desert, and religious overtones are signalled in re-creations of the Last Supper and Crucifixion.
Ernjakian’s expert direction weaves the disparate images into a powerful and touching pic, alive with humanity and humor. His sustained inventiveness makes “Deadline” a thoroughly unpredictable experience.