Landscape obsession. That’s the name of the game in Here [The Story Sleeps], the first-ever American feature film set in Armenia. An American satellite-mapping engineer travels the country’s diverse mountainous regions, striving with a maniacal fixation to transfer the exact measurements of these natural lands into a digitally plotted geometric language.
But his frustrations mount as the magnificent untamed landscape becomes more of an emotional map rather than one easily filtered through a 21st century cartographer’s vision. The untouched terrain of Armenia’s beauteous peaks, crags, canyons, and valleys are overpowering and drive him to fall in love with an Armenian art photographer, Gadarine, rather than to fit the untamable into a rational grid of lines and numbers.
The film, directed by Braden King, takes the viewer directly into the emotional plight of the main character as he experiences the sensations of the Armenian landscape with various enrapturing cinematic and visually artistic techniques.
Quick flashes of Gadarine’s magnetic postcard-like photographs speed by our eyes, turning us through views of Armenian lands, towns, and people as we experience someone else’s memories of a place and time.
The use of three separate screens allows for a variety of creative scenic views. We look from one screen to the next. The skip in our view adds a tension of at once seeing more yet concurrently missing what must connect the in-between – as if trying to plot the story ourselves.
Simple filming techniques, as a “backseat driver” in the couple’s van as they journey through Southern Armenia’s natural reserves, captures the main character’s raw yet humble struggle against a backdrop of lush green expanse through a half-open window.
And an interlude that is filmed at the red rocky mountain range surrounding Noravank Monastery slowly transforms an overhead plane view into a moving computerized 3-D grid rendition of the grand dry peaks. We fly over a swarm of lines drawing the mountains out as they pass underneath as if inside the cartographer’s mind, seeing his idealized dream that remains forever unfulfilled, jumbled and chaotic.
The film’s premiere screening was held at the opening night of MoMA’s Creative Capital Exhibition on April 30, 2010 with live film score performed by the Boxhead Ensemble and composed by Michael Krassner.
The music was not of Armenian influence, but it did add a dimension of poignant immediacy. Silent views of the landscape and the characters’ inner musings were accompanied by an ethereal aural atmosphere. And even the live music reacted to landscape just as the characters’ experiences did on screen.
Check out this video of the making of Here [The Story Sleeps]. As Diaspora Armenians, we get to have an unusual look at a non-Armenian artist’s perception of the land. It is a view innocently untouched by personal history or pre-conceived cultural notions. Either way, the vision is as stirring as our own.