Adoration is the new film by Canadian-Armenian auteur Atom Egoyan, a director held in high regard by the art house crowd. His latest is a puzzle box of a movie that looks at terrorism with a complex and thought-provoking approach. It tells the story of Simon, a student, raising a kafuffle when he presents the tale of a botched act of terrorism as the work of his own father. Egged on by Sabine, his French teacher, he develops the story, which spreads across the internet. Opinions get more and more reactionary and the situation soon spirals out of control.
Along with Egoyan’s pedigree and the production company’s name-Ego Art Films- the opening scenes of the film suggest that we’re in for something challenging. And, initially, that is what we get. The ever-present chat room becomes a verbal battleground in which a variety of people express their opinions on the subjects of terrorism, martyrdom and the importance of The Cause. Tension increases along with the heat of the debate, which culminates in a scary neo-Nazi voicing some vitriolic opinions. And then…the whole matter disappears and Egoyan begins what could be an entirely different film.
The problems with Adoration are manifold. First of all, the achronological narrative raises the question, “If this film was shown with the events in chronological order, would it make it much less interesting?” The opinions are powerfully put forward but, despite the contradictory messages, they all sound like one voice: Egoyan’s. The film could easily be a comprehensive lecture on the different insights into terrorism with Egoyan a schizophrenic preacher. The problems multiply with the films gear shift.
Now, a second and third film emerges from the first. A drama about the prejudices within multi-racial Canada takes centre stage briefly. It’s speedily dispatched by Film #3, an ‘unhappy families’ melodrama. A diner scene brings to light some unlikely twists (the scene itself interrupted by a discrepancy over taxi fare for a reason that completely escapes me) which opens p some new aspects in the story. The terrorism theme is lost amid the shiny new exploration into the nature of truth and of remembering the dead. Guilt appears briefly too, in order to give one actor a chance to stare significantly into the middle distance before that too disappears completely.
Then, the film ceases even to be an art film (by which I mean a film of ideas and subtlety) evolving into a saccharine melodrama of the cheesiest Hollywood standard. A frankly hilarious romance scene in which the neck of a violin becomes a phallic symbol marks this shift, and the film becomes more and more ridiculous, ending on a note so squirm-inducingly corny that you eye the available exits waiting for that fade out and firs end credit with mouth-watering anticipation.
After an opening that promises some intriguing cinema, it soon becomes clear that Egoyan wrote several scripts and shuffled them all together. An odd experiment that I hope he never repeats. An unfocused and disappointing film.