In an epic that stretches from eastern Turkey in 1915 to North Dakota eight years later, “The Cut” presents a haunting portrait of what has come to be known as the Armenian genocide and its aftermath. Written and directed by Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin — best known for his fervid 2004 romantic drama “Head-On” — it’s the first film by a director of Turkish heritage to candidly take on this historical tragedy.
Armenian blacksmith Nazaret Manoogian (Algerian-French actor Tahar Rahim) becomes separated from his family when the Ottoman army rounds up the Armenian men in his town (modern-day Mardin, Turkey) as World War I rages. He endures forced labor, survives a near-fatal throat-slitting — losing his ability to speak — and is witness to numerous other ravages and deprivations. A scene in an Armenian refugee camp in the Syrian desert is particularly harrowing.
Akin uses a visually compelling yet sober, almost restrained, aesthetic that differs from the more full-throttle approach of some of his previous work. In its surreal vistas, the stark desert landscape appears like something out of ancient Mesopotamia, although the score, with its electric-guitar droning, seems dissonant at times.
Rahim delivers a fairly strong performance. Yet the last third of the film loses some focus and emotional resonance when Nazaret journeys to Cuba and the United States, determined to find his twin daughters (twins Zein and Dina Fakhoury), who he believes are still alive.
In drifting away from the events of the conflict itself, Akin may be aiming for a more universal message about the power of blood to tie us together, even when we have lost our homeland.
Larson is a freelance writer.
Unrated. At Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Contains disturbing images of violence, a rape and human suffering. In English, Armenian, Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Spanish with subtitles. 138 minutes.