Because atrocious backstage drama 1915 is meant to address a great global tragedy — the Turkish government–mandated extermination of 1.5 million Armenians — the film’s creators smother its putting-on-a-show narrative with ponderous diatribes about “denial,” “ghosts,” and “acting.”
Almost all of the film’s trite, buzzword-laden speeches are delivered by Simon (Ararat‘s Simon Abkarian), a washed-up theater director who avoids examining his own motives for writing and staging a controversial play about the Armenian genocide by vaguely declaiming to his cast about the importance of his story: “You will bring those forgotten [Armenian] souls back to life…or you will die with them.” Simon’s refusal to provide straightforward explanations for his mysterious methods, particularly his hypnosis-like instructions for wife/lead actress Angela (Angela Sarafyan), is ultimately 1915‘s real subject.
But the plot myopically dwells on Simon’s frustration with collaborators like Tony (Nikolai Kinski, Klaus’s son), a self-serving actor whom Simon denounces for not getting deep enough inside his character’s head: “Acting — real acting — means facing the truth about yourself, facing the evil that lives inside you, and showing the world night after night. But you! You never had the courage to do that, did you?” Co-writers/-directors Garin Hovannisian and Alec Mouhibian devote so much time to cutting down their capricious, sketch-thin supporting characters that they only wind up making Simon’s self-righteous recriminations feel inconsequential.
Simon takes so many pseudo-mystical digs at colleagues, like when he tells leading man James (Sam Page) that “the wound has to sting before it can heal,” that he only reveals 1915‘s true nature as a pompous vanity project.