With a theatrical release timed to coincide with the anniversary of the devastating 1988 Armenian Earthquake, Alexander Kott’s “Spitak” is a spare, haunting character-driven drama set in the immediate aftermath of the temblor that left more than 25,000 dead.
Hurrying back to Spitak, where he left his family behind for a new life in Moscow with another woman, Ghor (Lernik Harutyunyan) finds his hometown, located at the quake’s epicenter, reduced to rubble.
Somewhat reminiscent in tone of 2012’s “The Impossible,” which dealt with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the production, Armenia’s official selection for best foreign language film Academy Award consideration, is more concerned with the unfolding, subdued human drama than action-heavy rescue sequences.
That doesn’t mean Russian filmmaker Kott spares us the horrific images — the most disturbing of which involves the discovery of a school classroom full of lifeless students entombed beneath the rocky wreckage.
“The sun has gone into hiding,” remarks one of the survivors of the grey, perpetual winter that engulfs them, against the aching strains of the mournful score by System of a Down lead vocalist Serj Tankian.
Amidst the despair, “Spitak” nevertheless offers a glimmer of hope in the bleakness.
— Michael Rechtshaffen
In Armenian and French with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Starts Dec. 7, Laemmle’s Glendale Theatre, Glendale
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