Leading Armenian documaker Harutyun Khachatryan (“Documentarist”) pays homage to national poet Ashugh Jivani while surveying the state of modern-day Armenia in “Return of the Poet.” Fast-moving tale of a sculptor who drives his statue of Jivani on a surreal journey around the country is a lyrical work, occasionally arresting in its bold images of churches and nature, and always a little mysterious. Doc and art fests will be the main showcases before it reaches Armenian ancillary markets abroad.
First part is a fascinating study in artistic creation. Beginning with a handful of clay, a veteran sculptor first creates a 10-foot statue of the noble-faced poet in his studio. Next we see an enormous piece of stone being extracted by crane from a mountainside and delivered in front of the sculptor’s apartment. Much hacking and hewing later, a stone replica majestically emerges from the rough rock.
What happens next is even more mysterious. Instead of being taken to a park or museum space for exhibition, the giant state is loaded onto a multi-axle truckbed. So begins a cross-country odyssey in which sculptor and poet revisit ancient Armenian sites and traditions, folk dances, churchyards, peasants on carts and shantytowns filled with the poor and unemployed.
Appropriately, Jivani, who spanned the 19th and 20th centuries, was known as a wanderer who sang to strangers. Khachatryan leaves much unsaid and implicit, letting the viewer marvel at the timeless scenery as the statue glides by with its expression of supernatural calm. The musical comment includes haunting songs using Jivani’s poetry as well as Avet Terteryan’s stirring modern choral music.