By Thomas White.
Following the death of her father, a young woman, Tatev (Sona Burnham), ties up loose ends in her current life before planning to return to her native Armenia for the funeral. The film depicts the difficulties of navigating bureaucracy and bereavement in a foreign country, while about to embark on a new chapter in her life.
It is not without its faults, most of which are down to a lack of technical refinement and narrative flow. Visually it is attractively composed. Numerous shots of the countryside sit alongside the more urban landscapes and we get a sense of an integrated, ordinary and fairly nondescript suburban environment.
Writer, director and cinematographer Tomas Gold chooses to film in stark monochrome with a lilting, high contrast exposure. However, as pleasant as the scenery is to look at, the shots often linger far too long. It’s a distraction, one which could easily cause the audience to lose interest. Whether these shots were held for too long, or if there were simply too many of them, on too many occasions it held back the story, making it feel stagnant when it would have been enough just to keep the narrative moving along.
Another downside to this languorous choice of cinematography was that it did very little to indicate or enhance any particular mood or tone. Had there been a clearer sense of rhythm to the camerawork it would perhaps have communicated its intentions more successfully.
It was these moments in particular which benefited from the accompanying soundtrack, an ambient score which played underneath from time to time, in addition to the natural sounds of the wind and rustling leaves. With such a sparse script it helped to create a reflective and even regretful atmosphere, echoing Tatev’s despondency and mourning for her recently departed father.
The music could in fact, I felt, have been used even more frequently. It would have given an effective emotional bed on which the story could have rested. One other technical gripe, which was less easy to overlook, had to do with the dialogue track itself, which was considerably lower in sound level to the rest of the soundtrack and score. As there was considerably little speech anyway it seemed like an oversight which could and should have been easily rectified.
Mournful and elegiac, Tatev is a sensitive portrait of introspection and melancholy. Admirably presented though ultimately flawed by its confused and inconsistent technical elements.
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