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The death of Komitas, (Soghomon Soghomonian, 1869 to 1935) the Armenian monk, ethnomusicologist, and genial composer, in a mental asylum situated on the outskirts of Paris, almost coincided with the end of a brutal era in the cultural evolution of Armenia. Only seven years before, two-thirds of the Armenian nation had perished in a horrendous genocide. Komitas is dedicated to the two million victims of that violence, the slaughter of whom is a vile and bleak chapter in the history of the Armenian people, one, which will never be erased from memory. -Komitas was already a symbol of cultural unity for his people when this happened. Deeply disturbed by the tragedy, as he experienced it through vivid accounts by survivors, he stopped writing music and eventually lost his mind. The last 20 years of his life were spent in various mental hospitals, where he was confronted by his painful memories. Speechless and alone, a passive witness to the horrors suffered by his people, he became a symbol of martyrdom, a ghostly presence at the core of Armenian culture at its most abhorrent historical moment. This film is not a biographical account of Komitas's life. Rather, in telling Komitas's story, director Don Askarian has resorted to aesthetic means which allow us to perceive reality in an intuitive, emotional way that appeals to our subjective perception. It is a visually poetic evocation of Komitas's personal drama brought to life through images that capture all its intensity and pathos.  

Heir apparent to the visions of those filmmakers, whose aesthetic explorations become the prominent aspect of their work, Askarian has created majestically beautiful films full of lyrical and mystical allusions.

Komitas, his first film, shown in 1988, had impressed spectators with its sensitive, evocative tale, which combines dream memory and poetic vision. Avetik is even further liberated from the conventions of storytelling, reaching into new areas of subconscious perception. In Askarian's image-making, a street of modern Berlin can lead to the luscious gardens of Armenia, invoking the timeliness and sanctity of one's cultural roots. As with all visionaries of the diaspora, the director travels through memory; in this case, his main character exits reality by simply crossing a road so that he can re-enter the realm of a deeper, more real, and more personal world. Askarian's film expresses the influence of his homeland in icon-like images of a religious dimension. Stepping into the world of watery greens or snowed-out expanses, his human figure at times a child, at other times an adult is accompanied by symbolic images of a dog, a sheep, a mother, alt of which merge into the subconscious. In this is expressed the everlasting longing for freedom, for the sensory communication of unconfessed messages and deeply felt desires. In warm earthly colours of reds, purples, and browns, Avetik should be seen as a visual poem, a silent song telling of ancient truths that transcend time. This is indeed a film of immense beauty, and with it Askarian establishes himself as a director of deep sensitivities and memorable pictures.    

Torronto Film Festival - Dimitri Eipides