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Uploaded on Apr 8, 2009
The last shot of 'Ravished Armenia' is the film's signature image: a beautiful young girl is crucified, her long black hair draping her naked body. The film fades out as her lips mouth a prayer and a vulture waits menacingly beside her on the cross. The controversial shot was deleted in England on political grounds, yet as incredible as it seems, Ms. Mardiganian actually witnessed such acts; indeed, her own fate was spared when her captors ran out of wood. She herself criticized the scene, calling it inauthentic for not having gone far enough. As explained to film historian Anthony Slide:
"The Turks didn't make their crosses like that. The Turks made little pointed crosses. They took the clothes off the girls. They made them bend down. And after raping them, they made them sit on the pointed wood, through the vagina. That's the way they killed the Turks. Americans have made it a more civilized way. They cant show such terrible things."
The scene is scoured of its vulgarity by the galvanizing drama of the musical score. With a stab of discordant strings, the orchestra provides a suitably jolting catharsis to both the end of 'Ravished Armenia' as we have it and the third movement of the 2nd Symphony. As crude as the scene may be, it is nevertheless an honest metaphor of the tragedy as viewed in the Christian west at the time. For Americans in 1915, the genocide was not so much seen as the destruction of an ethnos, but as the systematic persecution of a Christian people unparalleled since the days of pagan Rome.
With the end of 'Ravished Armenia', Credo moves from reenactment to reality. The remainder of the third movement is visualized through a series of explicit photographs taken by the intellectual, writer, civil rights defender, and photographer Armin T. Wegner. A member of the German Sanitary Corps stationed in Turkey during the First World War, Wegner (1886 -1978) ignored the strict orders of the Turkish and German authorities and documented the deportation camps through his writings and hundreds of pictures between 1915 and 1916. At the insistence of the Turkish Command, the German authorities eventually arrested Wegner. Hidden safely in his belt were these and many other pictures taken by him and his fellow officers. Wegner's stark, grimly iconic portraits of victims, living and dead, brutally illustrate the raw emotion that closes the third movement.