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  • Feature: Adoration

    Wed, 06 May 2009 15:14:20

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    Adoration is director Atom Egoyan’s perplexing and sometimes alienating saga about family, history, technology, and constructed identity—and those are but a handful of the obvious themes. Add to this a terrorist subplot and a teenage hero relaying his deceased parents’ tragic love story, and you have the makings of a drama fashioned in the convoluted, somewhat fanciful way that Egoyan is known for. It is both beautiful and frustrating, but for viewers willing to toil with the film’s life-weathered characters, the cinematic journey may prove gainful.

    The binary plotlines in Adoration revolve around, first, aforementioned orphan Simon (Devon Bostick), who is coerced by his eccentric French teacher (Arsinée Khanjian) into claiming a news story about a foiled terrorist plan as his parents’ tale. What begins as a dramatic experiment for the young boy and his instructor spirals out of control, eventually launching wild political debates on the internet (dramatized with the use of multi-screen, Brady Bunch-esque video chats), and strife between Simon and his caretaker uncle (a grizzly-looking Scott Speedman).

    The politically-charged faux family history that Simon perpetuates was inspired by actual events. Egoyan relates the news story upon which Simon’s fictions were based: “It happened in 1986: A Jordanian man talked his Irish girlfriend who was pregnant with his child onto an El Al flight, and unbeknownst to her he had planted a bomb in her bag. At the last moment he decided he couldn’t take the flight, so he was basically using her as the detonator.” Simon narrates in the first-person, alleging himself to be the child of said couple.

    The event as related in Adoration sets the stage for ensuing melodrama, but Egoyan was less interested in the scenario’s histrionics than what it symbolized for his maturing hero. “You have this young man who wants to access his own history, wants to access who his parents might have been, and…takes [an] extreme gesture where he allows himself to take this fantasy figure that opens up this incredible response—which is very engaging and diverting and entertaining for him, but doesn’t really end up solving any issue.”

    Egoyan further remarks on the repercussions of such loaded lies, recognizing the innocent place from which they stem, and the calamity they lead to. “For a person that’s been raised to believe that his father is a demon, [like Simon,] this would be a way of exploring [his past] in a matter that, strangely enough, he probably thinks is quite safe, because it’s play. But then it becomes way more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.”

    Fractured emotions—and by extension fractured identity—are often the topic of Egoyan’s work, territory which the director finds thematically rich. Precocious Simon plays with the boundaries of how he is perceived, and how he perceives himself, sometimes in morally questionable ways. Egoyan connects his interest in the topic of identity with the occupation he has chosen for a living. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot: Maybe it’s because it’s actually what I do as a filmmaker. I construct these scenarios and they become such a part of my life, and I’m also fascinated by characters who are also involved in that. As the technology has caught up to us, it’s really possible for people to do this effortlessly.”

    As for the role of the internet in the story—the channel through which Simon’s story is spread, criticized, and a medium that many young people use to virtually alter their identities—Egoyan was hyper-conscious of its current relevance, and how it connects to his previous films. “In a way, this is a return to a certain investigation of technology that was in [my] earlier work, and yet, the world has changed. I don’t see these technologies being as oppressive or as dangerous as they were.”

    “You have to realize what its limitations are. I think that, for a while, this kid thinks he’s going to find some solution or some answer to his quest through [these] means, but it’s not possible, really, because it’s endless. It just keeps evolving and changing form. I think the internet is really valuable to initiate discourse…but by its nature it can’t be cathartic. It can’t resolve, because it’s not designed to resolve.”

    The same thing—“it’s not designed to resolve”—might be said of Adoration, a film whose knotted layers don’t easily come untangled and is nothing if not cerebral, with a few mythical accents tickling its skin.

    —Heidi Atwal

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    Tags: Atom Egoyan, Arsinée Khanjian, Scott Speedman, Devon Bostick, Rachel Blanchard

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