Mariam

Armenia's biggest production this year is Edgar Baghdasaryan's psychological thriller "Mariam," a "Sixth Sense"-ish tale long on atmosphere but short on story. Despite some intriguing ideas, this mystifying pic loses its way as it tries smudge the boundaries between clinical schizophrenia and ESP/precognition.

With:
With: Janet Hovannesian, Samvel Sargsyan, Artashes Shahverdyan, Vigen Stepanyan.

Armenia’s biggest production this year is Edgar Baghdasaryan’s psychological thriller “Mariam,” a “Sixth Sense”-ish tale long on atmosphere but short on story. Despite some intriguing ideas, this mystifying pic loses its way as it tries smudge the boundaries between clinical schizophrenia and ESP/precognition. A tighter edit from a less intellectualized perspective might give enough focus to interest DVD markets in the pic’s high-quality visuals.

The lovely Mariam (Janet Hovannesian) teaches at a school for the deaf. She’s tortured by an inexplicable, recurring event in which a bright light appears in her apartment and all the glass shatters. This scary scene, repeated several times with effective CGI work, appears to accompany TV newscasts about nuclear explosions, terrorist attacks, children involved in wars, and other cruel slices of reality.

She visits a shrink (Samvel Sargsyan), claiming the voices she hears and the light she sees are real. The analyst becomes so fascinated with his strange patient that he takes to spying on her. His own problems emerge in an unconvincing subplot.

Meanwhile Mariam decides to have a baby by artificial insemination, leading to a wild final scene that offers the story another puzzle in the place of closure.

One has the feeling a film lurks here somewhere. Young Hovannesian is particularly notable in a mature, measured performance. Yet the tantalizing elements surrounding Mariam, like her work as a sign-language interpreter on television, never reach the expected payoff.

Baghdasaryan (“Black Wall,” “Games”) clearly has a feeling for eerie tone, while his slow-paced, introspective editing is capable of startling cuts, like the one from a turgid philosophical debate to a sexy, over-the-top tango sequence. Lenser Vahagn Ter-Hakobyan works with a restricted palette of dull gray colors to bring out the weirdness of the everyday. Ara Torosyan’s thriller score is suitably subtle.

Mariam

Armenia

Production: An ArmenFilm Pictures presentation of a Hayfilm Studio production. Produced, directed, written, edited by Edgar Baghdasaryan.

Crew: Camera (color), Vahagn Ter-Hakobyan; music, Ara Torosyan; production designer, Armen Ghazaryan; sound (Dolby), Karen Tsaturyan. Reviewed at Golden Apricot Film Festival (non-competing), Yerevan, Armenia, July 12, 2005. Running time: 126 MIN.

With: With: Janet Hovannesian, Samvel Sargsyan, Artashes Shahverdyan, Vigen Stepanyan.

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