Patvakan Barkhudarian

Sog.: dal racconto omonimo di Matvei Darbinian. Scen.: Patvakan Barkhudarian, Matvei Darbinian. F.: Aleksandr Stanke. Scgf.: Stepan Tarian. Int.: Ambartsum Khachanian (Kikos), Amasi Martirosian (il comandante della città), Arus Ashimova (Osan), Suren Kocharian (membro del parlamento), Grachia Nersesian (Armen), K. Kegamov (Starshina), V. Iliin (Ivan), Avet Avetisian (Murat), Mikhael Karakash (l’insegnante), Grigori Chakhirian (ufficiale). Prod.: Armenkino. 35mm. L.: 1213 m. D.: 53’ a 20 f/s. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Usually classified as a drama, Kikos in fact belongs to a much more sophisticated genre. It is a tragicomedy – a genre that might be the most appropriate for a film about the post-revolutionary mentality. The story takes place sometime around 1920, during the short-lived First Republic of Armenia created by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, an influential socialist party also known as Dashnaktsutyun. Kikos is a simple-minded peasant who is being constantly mobilized and re-mobilized by the current powers, ping-ponging from Dashnaks to Communists and back.
Formally this classic of Armenian silent cinema belongs to a vast group of films about the awakening of class-consciousness in ‘a little man’ – a road opened by Pudovkin’s Mother. At the end Kikos indeed grabs a riffle and runs off to shoot a Dashnak officer – for he has miraculously realized that his place is with the Red Army. But such an ending seems artificial in many ways. Kikos – as any little man in the classical tradition – is by definition apolitical and ‘private’. He is willing to co-exist with any powers as long as he is allowed to farm, to live with his wife, to drink with his friends and to talk to his donkey. 
While in the trenches he tries to fan away the whizzing bullets as if they are flies – without making the slightest effort to hide. The Dashnaks send him to get some firewood, and while he is in the forest, a massive attack on the camp begins; Kikos is not at all afraid, but each time a bomb explodes he frowns in vexation, because the explosions distract him from his work. Perhaps the most touching is the scene where, captured by the Reds, Kikos pleads: “Don’t kill me, I did not want to go to war” – and then specifies, turning to his friend: “Tell them, Armen, that I did not want to go to war now, during ploughing”.
The film is rather eclectic – which irritated the censors of the time and which makes it so attractive for us today. It starts off as an anti-Dashnak pamphlet with the strong influence of Soviet avant-garde montage ( Ėjzenštejn, Pudovkin, Dovženko et al.). All of a sudden a plot with a most unusual protagonist pops out, and the film turns into a bitter comedy with a well-balanced combination of document and the grotesque. It grows in pathos towards the end and becomes very conventional.
Kikos is played by Ambartsum Khachanian, a leading comedian of Armenian theatre of the 1920s-1930s. He had a successful film career, becoming Armenia’s most famous screen ‘clown’ as well. Yet, his manner, however arresting, usually seems a bit theatrical and exaggerated. In Kikos he is put in a classic Soviet avant-garde historical-revolutionary milieu (not the most common setting for a theatrical actor, let alone a comedian) but given as much freedom as possible. Thus he is restrained and ‘mobilized’ at the same time. The result turned out to be Khachanian’s strongest screen performance, and one of the most admired classics of Armenian silent cinema. 

Peter Bagrov