La Masseria Delle Allodole (The Lark Farm) (2007)




Director:     , .

Starring:     Paz Vega (Nunik), Moritz Bleibtreu (Ferzan), Alessandro Preziosi (Egon), Ángela Molina (Ismene), Arsinée Khanjian (Armineh), Mohammed Bakri (Nazim), Tchéky Karyo (Aram), Mariano Rigillo (Assadour), Hristo Shopov (Isman), Christo Jivkov (Sarkis), Stefan Danailov (Presidente Tribunale), Linda Batista (Signora Turca), Assen Blatechki (Serg. Mudir), Marius Donkin (Dr. Krikor), André Dussollier (Col. Arkan).

1815,  Turkish genocide against Armenia




Spoiler Warning:

1915. "In a small city in Turkey, the war seems far away, like the Turkish persecution of the Armenian minorities."  A young boy named Avetis sneaks around and grabs some grapes from the table.  Everyone seems to be in bed.  It's very quiet in the house.  Grandfather is feeling weak and the boy goes into his bedroom to offer him some of the grapes.  Grandfather accepts a grape, but he doesn't eat it.  He sees an image of blood splashed on a wall.  He puts his hands over his eyes.  He says to the boy:  "You must go, all of you!  Run!"

The pretty young woman Nunik is looking for Avetis.  Grandfather dies and the grape falls out of his hand.  Nunik finds Avetis with his head laying on grandfather's chest.  As she comes toward Avetis, she realizes that grandfather is not breathing.  She calls for the nurse and her father.  The nurse takes Avetis out of the room.  Father Aram looks at grandfather and tells Nunik that he is sorry.  Nunik runs crying to grandfather's sister.  Nunik now goes to her sister-in-law, named Armineh,who tells her that she will be the one to tell the other children about grandfather's death.  Mother tells the children and then starts to take them to say goodbye to grandfather.  But the little boy, Nerse, says he's not coming because he's scared.  He hides under a bed. 

Grandfather and his family are Armenians.  Nunik's brother Aram tells Nunik that everybody will come to the funeral: both Armenians and Turks.  Nunik isn't sure she wants the Turks at the funeral.  Her aunt, Ismene, comes over asking where are her father's clothes.  She has to wash and dress him for the funeral.  Nunik says that her beloved, a Turk, will be coming to the house and she can't wait to see him again.  Her mother tells her to forget that man for he is a Turk and she is an Armenian. 

The Turk, Lt. Egon Taner, shows up at the funeral.  Nunik and he see each other from a distance across the room.  She goes over to the casket to say goodbye to her father.  Her brother tells her that Nazim has just arrived, but he won't come in.  He tells Nunik to go over and talk to Nazim.  She walks over to him and tells him to come in for Nazim was devoted to her father and father both loved and respected Nazim.  He is always welcome to their house.

The Turkish military commander, Colonel Arkan, comes in with two officers.  The boy who saw grandfather die, Avetils, looks at the commander.  He then closes his eyes and sees in his imagination the blood splash against a wall. 

Now the casket is taken out for burial.  The Turkish soldier grabs and holds Nunik's left hand, but she suddenly pulls her hand out of the soldier's hand.  She cries on her brother's shoulder. 

Brother now writes a letter to their other brother, Professor Assadour, saying that their family has endured a great deal of pain.  But the family is comforted by the knowledge that brother will soon return to them.  Assadour is currently in Padova, northern Italy.  Aram writes that their father has left Lark Farm to Assadour. 

Talking to his family and friends at the dinner table, Assadour stands before a painting of the huge farm house at Lark Farm and says this is where he was born.  He tells his family that he shall all return to Lark Farm.  He says that his wife Livia and he both know that his father was a great Armenian.  He allowed Assadour to leave when he was just fourteen years old.  "But from that day forward, he never mentioned my name.  And I was never able to return and see my people."  And now Assadour is going from Venice, via Greece and Turkey to Lark Farm.  An older man says but Turkey is at war.  Assadour says but Italy is neutral and the frontiers are open.  Livia says she is scared for her husband and son Antonio, who is also going on the trip.  She adds:  "You should think of me too."

The two boys of the family ask Assadour where did the boys sleep in the farm house?  Second floor on the far left as you face the house.  He says he shared the room with his brother, Aram.  One of Assadour's friends comes to him and tells him to be careful and don't trust the Turks.  But the friend is not going to be able to discourage Assadour from making the trip. 

In the city, Egon, the Turkish soldier, knocks on Nunik's door.  She lets him come in.  She tells him that he shouldn't have come.   Then she quickly changes her mind.  She's glad he has come, but just not at this particular house.  He asks her to come with him.  He will not make her convert from Christianity.  They could go live in Europe.  She asks why should she come with him?  He says because he wants to save her.  He doesn't want her to suffer.  These last statements have scared Nunik.  She asks what is it he's hiding from her?  He says he just meant that their being Turk and Armenian means they don't have a chance in this city.  They have to leave this city, but it's all up to Nunik.  She kisses him and he kiss her back passionately. 

Egon says he has to go to Istanbul for a few days, but she mustn't' worry.  He will return.  She hurries him out the door and on his way. 

Egon and other Turkish officers are shown slides from the battle zones of WWI.  Their host says that the Russians are stronger than they thought.  He says they must not lose because they want a Turkey for all the Turks.  And they must get rid of all enemies on the inside of Turkey.  Somebody says let's get rid of the Armenians for they are just rich traitors.  And the Armenians are waiting for the arrival of the Russians.  Egon's friend speaks up for the Armenians, but the Captain says he doesn't trust the Armenians.  He gets excited and yells:  "We'll get rid of all Armenians!"

Egon's friend tells him don't desert his military colleagues just for the sake of a woman.  But Egon says he has to take Nunik away from all this.  His friend then tells him to just go over the other side of the border and leave her with Armenian friends.  And then return to Turkey and the army.  Egon says his friend makes him think too much and he must stop listening to him. 

A piano arrives for Aram.  The problem is that the Turkish workers will not unload a piano into an Armenian's house.  Lately the workers have been acting strangely.  So Aram has to grab various people to get the piano into the house.  Aran's wife asks him why wouldn't the Turkish workers unload the piano?  Aram changes the subject by asking if his wife invited Turkish Col. Arkan to their party?  No.  Aram says:  "You forgot your most important Turkish friend?"  Neither did she invite the Colonel's wife and she loves parties.

Colonel Arkan talks about what to do about the Armenians.  He says that the Armenians do not pose a threat to his area here.  A man in civilian clothes says that they hope that the Colonel will help them find the traitors and spies among the Armenians.  Armenian soldiers and officers have now been removed from the Turkish army.  And in Istanbul, all Armenians will be arrested.  The same thing will be done here, but not immediately.  Arkan wants to know what are his orders?  The military man says that, above all, the Armenians must not find out what will be their fate.  They don't want to create panic among the Armenians.  When the right time comes, Arkan will get a special squad he can use on the Armenians.  There will be raids, arrests of all the males and eliminations.  Arkan asks if this means even the women and children?  The military man says the women and children will be transferred and deported.  In addition, Arkan is to take all valuable items from the Armenian houses.

Mrs. Arkan has been listening to the plans.  When the two men leave, she says about the Armenians:  "They'll all be killed!"  The Colonel says he must follow his orders.  Mrs. Arkan says Dr. Krikor is the Colonel's physician and the Avikans are our friends. She then asks if they are going to the Lark Farm?  The Colonel says he won't go, but he wants his wife to go so that the Armenians don't get suspicious.  The wife begs her husband not to force her to go to the farm alone.  She says:  "I won't step foot in that house."

Nevertheless, Mrs. Arkan goes to the farm in her red dress.  The children are brought out to see her and it's obvious that the Turkish woman feels awkward about seeing their shining faces when she knows they will soon be killed or deported.  She suddenly picks up a very pretty little girl and hugs her hard.  She then realizes that people are watching her and she says "sorry" two times and puts the child down.  Then she grabs a drink and downs it quickly. 

An army messenger tells Nunik that Egon said that she must immediately take the carriage and he will meet her at the usual place at 7 o'clock tonight.  He also said that he will take Nunik far away from here across the border.  At first, Nunik says no, but then almost immediately says yes.

The Armenians start dancing.  They get Mrs. Arkan to dance with them, but she starts to faint and has to be seated in a chair.  She sees a pretty mirror and says that they could give her the mirror.  Aram and his wife find this a strange request and they look at each other.  She must be delirious and talks to her husband:  "Your soldiers could bring the piano up."  The wife is very worried, but Aram says the woman is just delirious.  They must not offend her. 

Nunik goes to the stables, but the horse is not there.  Her Aunt Ismene doesn't want her to leave.  She says Egon has always been spoiled.  He is hot and passionate now, but such intense feelings will not last.  Nunik says that Egon is betraying his colleagues for her.  Her aunt says and then Egon will betray Nunik. 

Egon and his friend come to the city house of Nunik.  He bangs on the door and then start telling Nunik his plans for them.  His friend has to tell him that Nunik is not there.  They will come back tonight for her.  No, Nunik is not there, but Nazim is and he knows the plan now. 
Now Nazim goes to Col. Arkan to tell him about Egon's plans.  It's hard for the Colonel to realize that Egon is going to desert the army for the sake of Aram Avakian's sister and another officer will help them.  Nazim says he has never let the Colonel down.  The Colonel tells Nazim to leave, but Nazim wants his reward.  The Colonel tells him to go see his attendant for his reward.  As Nazim starts to leave, the Colonel tells him:  "Nazim.  You're a beast.  That family took you in and fed you."  Nazim answers:  "I'm doing it for them.  Aram and Armineh don't know about this plan. I'm doing it for them."
Colonel Arkan brings in Lt. Taner and tells Taner that he is a real imbecile!  Taner says the Colonel has just heard rumors.  The Colonel picks up a lamp off his desk and threatens to hit Taner over the head.  He holds himself back but tells Taner that if he wants to avoid being court-martialed, he will take his friend and leave for the Russian front within the hour without telling anyone.  Taner asks what about Nunik?  The Colonel says that if Taner wants to stay with the woman, he will be busted down to the rank of private and assigned to a zaptieh troop.  [Military police troop.]  There Taner will be escorting the Armenian women and his beloved Nunik.  He will deport them to the desert, east of Aleppo.  [To the east of Aleppo (in today's Syria) is the Syrian Desert (aka, the Syro-Arabian desert).]  If Taner really loves her, he can go on the convoy with her and he can be of assistance to her.
Nunik still waits for the arrival of Lt. Taner.  Her aunt says she can't wait forever. 
The troops from Istanbul have arrived. 
At the city residence of Aram, a Turkish friend, Dr. Krikor, tells Aram that the soldiers have come to arrest them all.  Col. Arkan has issued an order that all heads of families must go to the prefecture at 3 o'clock this afternoon.  The doctor says frankly, he's scared.  And he doesn't trust the authorities.  He suggests that he and Aram go to Lark Farm.  Father tries to reassure the family that everything will be okay.  Col. Arkan will just call for them to pay higher taxes and they'll carry on as always. 
Two Turkish soldiers come in asking for Aram.  His wife tells them that she will tell her husband when he gets back from Lark Farm.  The guy in charge says okay.  The other guy, however, is not so pleasant.  He pours the family's soup out on their nice table cloth. After the Turkish soldiers leave, mother and aunt take their jewels out of hiding.  Mother tell the Aunt that they won't touch her because she is Greek so she can look after the house and the children.  Aunt Ismene starts to cry.  Mother says:  "My dear friend, I've had a good life.  No one promised it'd be forever.  I've had a good life.  No one promised it'd be forever."  When she says that, she gets angry and frustrated and grabs the rug with her two hands and bangs on the floor with her fists.  Mother tells Aunt Ismene that if they get in real trouble she is to go to Aleppo and speak to the Spanish Consul, Luis Armendariz. 
The people who work for the Armenian family are now afraid for themselves and their families.  One woman tells Nunik that zaptieh troops are everywhere.  Mother says that can all come with them to Lark Farm for no one will look for them there.  They'll meet out back in an hour.  And bring some provisions. 
The  Captain in the Turkish military says that the Armenians are provoking them. "They're taking refuge at their farms.  Traitors!"   Col. Arkan tells him not to worry for the prefecture will deal with the Armenians as the Captain ordered.  "But the wealthy ones will be spared."  Just before the Captain leaves the room, he tells another soldier to find out where the Armenians are and tell him right away.
The soldiers grab Nazim and they tell him that he knows where Lark Farm is and they want him to show them the way.  Nazim tries to deny that he knows the way, but they force him to come with them. 
The refugees now pour into the house at Lark Farm.  The children play in the basement. 
The soldiers arrive at Lark Farm.  The Captain makes it clear that he wants the Armenians wiped out. The soldiers get off their horses and walk down to the farm house.  The Captain goes right into the house.  He draws his sword and cuts off the head of Aram.  He then throws the dead man's head into the lap of his wife.  She starts moaning in mental anguish. 
One of the small boys hides under a piece of furniture, as he usually does when he's scared.  The Captain has the family physician castrated.  A soldier pulls the small boy out from his hiding place.  The two Armenians that have their passports to go to American are never going to make it now.  They are both killed by the sword slashing of the soldiers.  Nunik dresses one of the boys up as a girl.  The small boy's body is thrown on the lawn with the other dead Armenians.  And now they bring out the women and children from the house.  Nazim stands there watching this horror take place.  He finally can't take it and walks away.  A Turkish soldier asks him if he's Armenian?  Nazim turns around and says he's Armenian.  He tells the guard to shoot him, but the other Turkish soldier with the guard says the man's a Turk.  That's Nazim.
Col. Arkan arrives and tells the Captain that he is going to charge him with insubordination.  The Captain says he will report Col. Arkan as a traitor to the Revolution!  Arkan goes to speak to Armineh and Nunik.  He then tells the soldier to spare the women.  Now the women run over to the dead bodies of their loved ones.  Nunik and the sisters and brother of the small boy cry over his body.  Col. Arkan goes over and sees the family doctor still alive in the group of dead bodies.  He takes out his pistol, asks the doctor for forgiveness and then shoots him in the head. 
In Italy Professor Assadour learns of the troubles for the Armenians and hw cries.  His wife rushes out of the house to bring him home.  And he has some photos of the march of the Armenian women to the east of Aleppo.  A German health officer risked his life to take the photos.  Convoys like this are leaving cities everywhere.  There are no men going with the women.  They must have already been killed.  Assadour's eldest son asks if Uncle Aram has been killed too?  Father says:  no, not Aram.   Father goes into another room.  His wife goes in to comfort him.  He tells her:  "I'm going to help our people. . . I'm going to sell out assets to raise money."  He can use the money to buy off the zaptieh.  His wife gives him one of her rings from her fingers for the war chest. 
Assadour plans to go to the area of the Lark Farm.  He hasn't told his wife yet.  He asks one of his friends to tell his wife.  Men are cutting out the center of large books and filling them with money.  His friend tells Assadour that the borders will be closed, so it's an impossible journey for Assadour.  One of Assadour's other friends comes to tell Assadour that his son here, Ter, works at the Spanish consulate.  Spain is neutral!  Ter says that their couriers could deliver those books to Turkey via their consulate in Aleppo.  Assadour tells Ter "thank you".
Nunik and other women walk to Aleppo.  The line of women and children is very long.  A rich couple drive up to the line and they tell a guard that they have written permission to take two women as house servants.  The man picks out Nunik.  The commander of the walk rides over on his horse and tells the couple to get going.  He says:  "The Armenian women aren't for you."  The couple leave. 
Nazim talks to an audience of people saying he just has to save the Armenian family that took him in when he was down and out. The audience consists of Turkish men.  They agree to help Nazim.  They say they have friends in Aleppo.  The friends are Arabs, but they'll help.  These friends are much more organized than they are and they are powerful. 
Nazim and Ismene ride in a wagon along a road.  Along the road, they see women who are dead and laid out on trees as if they had been crucified.  Ismene is extremely shocked and scared for her relatives.  One of the Armenian women along the road crawls over to the wagon.   She tells Nazim and Ismene that she played dead and fooled the Turks.  Nazim and Ismene asks the woman if she has seen Armineh and Nunik.  The woman says their Aunt Hasmig was sick and fell out of the line.  She was about to be shot, when she got up.  The guard just decided to let her live and he ran back to the line.  One of the women gave birth to a boy baby.  The woman and Armineh kill the baby on the orders of the guards by crushing the boy placed between their two backs. 
The Turks rape some of the women.  Nunik goes to the tent of an officer.  She disrobes for him.  He puts a blanket around her.  He cuts her some bread and says that he doesn't touch women of the camp.  She says nor does he touch the dead women's bodies.  The officer ignores that comment and says that his name is Youssouf.   He already knows her name is Nunik.  Before she leaves, he wants her to know that he doesn't want to be here.   He joined, but he wanted to fight on the front line for Turkey.  Instead, he's here.  When he left his home the townspeople were proud of him.  Now he never wants anyone to know how he served his country.
He tells her to get dressed.  There's a lot of noise outside the tent.  Youssouf and Nunik look outside and see a bunch of guards grabbing a woman trying to escape.  They rip off her clothes and tie her to a post.  (brief nudity and scene very dark)  The escapees will be burned and then beheaded.  Nunik says to Youssouf:  "You won't let them torture me, will you?  Promise me."  Youssouf promises her. 
Nazim and the Arabs plan an escape for Armineh and Nunik.  A carpenter is to make a carriage with a false bottom.  They will bring the carriage close to the camp.  They will bribe at least four watchmen.  They will be informed before the Armenians are taken to Dei-er-Zor from which none of the women and children will return.  The total cost for all this will be 1,400 pounds.  Nazim and Ismene put their money and jewels before the main Arab.  He says they would need double the amount for the escape. The Arabs leave. 
In the camp in Aleppo, Nunik has to fight the children off because they think she has more bread hidden in her clothes.  Later she cries about the incident. 
Ismene now remembers about seeking help if in trouble from the Spanish Consulate in Aleppo. 
Two men grab the Spanish consul.  The two men say they will not hurt the consul.  Ismene rushes over and she shows him the jewelry Armineh gave to her.  She asks him if he remembers the woman?  He does remember her.  Ismene says that Armineh is being deported.  The consul says he will help.  He takes Ismene to his office and he gives her the books that came from Assadour.  She is so relieved to find he money in the books. 
Nazim searches the encampment until he finds Nunik.  He tells her to be ready to escape tonight.  They have bribed the watchmen. 
Nunik goes to see Youssouf.  He says that he got his commander to transfer him to his home area.  When he goes Nunik will come with him.  But Nunik tells him that she has come to say goodbye.  Tonight she and her family are leaving the camp.  Youssouf says he won't let her go.  He says the others can go, but not Nunik.  She says the children can't survive without her.  If she doesn't stay, then Youssouf will report her.  He slaps her hard.  She says she can not love anyone anymore. 
The time has come for the escape.  One of the little girls drops her apple and Nunik says she will get it for her.  The only troublesis that troops have come into the area.  Nunik starts singing a rebel song and is grabbed.  Her shirt is torn off her body.  (brief nudity)  They are set to burn Nunik.  Youssouf arrives and he cries when he sees Nunik ready to be burned.  Youssouf cuts off her head and the Armenians scream over the shocking event. 
"Avetis and the girls were taken undercover to Smyrna, from where a Spanish cargo boat secretly took them to Venice.  Armineh held out long enough to see that her children were safe."
Istanbul.  Four years later.  The war has ended.  There is a trial for crimes against the Armenian people.  Youssouf testifies that he saw the Armenian massacre with his own eyes.  There were headed for Deir-re-zor.  All the survivors were killed.   The officers on trial shout that they were just carrying out orders!  ThenYoussouf testifies against himself.  He killed an Armenian girl.  She was the girl that he loved. 
"Following the first convictions, the trials were suspended.  The Armenian people are still awaiting justice."
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