A dying millionaire returns to his homeland and faces his violent past in the heavy-handed “Symphony of Silence,” Armenia’s first official Oscar submission. Though credibly acted, the film lacks both the emotional pull and the subtlety needed to create empathy with its protagonist Mel Divan (Michael Poghossian).
A reformed gangster living in the U.S., the terminally ill Divan returns to his native Armenia to pay off a longstanding debt to a friend. When the mental institution from which he escaped 25 years ago comes up for auction, Mel jettisons his plans for a quick departure and buys the facility. Installing himself as its head, Mel cleans and restores the dilapidated hospital before bonding with the patients, who hail him as their savior. But others in Armenia, including those he once robbed of millions, want to settle their scores with him. Urgently trying to outrun his assailants and to outpace his illness, Mel finds himself facing his destiny. Director Vigen Chaldranian ladles on the religious iconography and Gary Kesayan’s music pretty heavily. Consequently, its tired message — it’s the “normal” people, not the inmates, who are crazy — feels both forced and overly familiar.