The Lark Farm

The Lark Farm


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

At a time when the US Senate is demanding an official apology from Turkey for the genocide of the Armenian people within its borders during the First World War, veteran directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Padre Padrone) have made a chilling indictment of what appears to be a precursor of the Holocaust in Germany, the Gulags in the USSR and Srebrenica in Bosnia. The result has a feeling of déjà vu, which does not diminish its impact, rather reaffirms the deadly force of unfettered nationalism.

The film brings to mind Vittorio De Sica’s The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis (1971), except The Lark Farm goes further and follows the women after the men have been slaughtered (“If we don’t wipe them out, they’ll seek revenge”), into the wilderness. The family at the centre, like the Finzi-Continis, is upper-middle-class, successfully integrated within Turkish society and, as such, seemingly impregnable from political shifts of opinion, whether from the religious right or the secular left. The unknown factor, of course, is the war, which edges ever closer, bringing with it the fear of invasion and the false probability that Armenians will join the Germans. “Turkey For The Turkish!” is the cry, unifying fascist elements within the army and feeding a nation’s paranoia.

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There are so many similarities between what happens here and what happened throughout Europe with Jewish families during the period of the Third Reich. The anguish is repeated, only in some terrible way worse, because the victims are women and girls and children. They are taken from the charnel house (their home) and marched into the mountains and across the desert. Those who try to escape are beheaded, or burnt alive. Those who survive become sexual fodder for the soldiers.

This is harrowing to the point where it is difficult to remain a witness. Not all the Turks are monsters. Many of the young recruits hate what they do but, for their own safety, must “obey orders.” The inevitability of massacre is like waiting for the Devil’s chariot, only before the dying comes the torture and before the torture comes the knowledge. The Taviani brothers are known for their honesty. They do not compromise with your sentiments. The true nature of war, if this is war, rather than willful murder, is without mercy. What happened here was a crime, a horror, only emphasizing the slender thread between humanity and chaos. It is no longer a matter of politics; it is a matter of hope, without which life has no meaning.

Reviewed on: 21 Nov 2007
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Massacre of Armenians in Turkey during the First World War.

Director: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani

Writer: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, based on the novel by Antonia Arslan

Starring: Paz Vega, Moritz Bleibtreu, Alessandro Preziosi, Ángela Molina, Arsinée Khanjian, Mohammed Bakri, Tchéky Karyo, Mariano Rigillo, Hristo Shopov, Christo Jivkov, Stefan Danailov

Year: 2007

Runtime: 122 minutes

Country: Italy, France, Bulgaria, Spain, UK


Italian 2007

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