A symbolic family drama with strong religious overtones, “The Lost Paradise” is deeply rooted in Armenian history and mythology. Pic’s symbolism, lack of traditional narrative and static pace will restrict it to fests and retrospectives of Armenian films.
Director Davit Safaryan, who also co-scripted, presents a typical farming family in a remote village, which is meant to represent the entire universe.
The village where the exiled Armenians live is called Partizak (small orchard), but their native home, seen by only a few, was on the other side of the Biblical Mount Ararat. Like other recent Armenian films, narrative concerns the strong need to establish a community; in this case, an attempt to recapture harmony between humanity and nature.
Safaryan, making his feature film debut after directing a number of documentaries (“Fire!””Forest”), creates a multilayered study full of references to the Bible and Armenian mythology, which is not always coherent. Narrative switches back and forth from naturalistic melodrama to highly metaphorical passages about man’s search for harmony with God and nature. 2w The family consists of the mother, her son David and his grandfather; the father has left on a religious mission. The villagers are threatened with deportation and relocation by businessmen and government bureaucrats who plan to develop a modern town.
The developers don’t understand how anyone can live in such a tiny, primitive place. But villagers resist, claiming, “We’re no cattle, you can’t drive us away , we belong to the mountains.”
Pic conveys religious attachment to the land and to Mount Ararat, whose magnitude dwarfs the village and its dwellers, serving as a symbol for the lost paradise.
Ashot Mkrtchyan’s lyrical lensing is impressive in scope, providing a luminous dramatization of detail. His high-angle long shots capture nature in all its glory and mystery — in one masterly scene, rays of light pierce the dark and cloudy skies, then, within seconds, heavy snow begins to fall.
Stefan Lousikyan’s evocative music effectively creates pic’s mood of distanced, bittersweet nostalgia for a past lost forever.