"World Cinema: Israel"
My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.
Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
The big winner at the Jerusalem Film Festival is Intimate Grammar, directed by Nir Bergman. According to the jury, the film took the top prize for best Israeli feature film “for its penetrating description conveyed in cinematic language, illustrating the internal world of the youths and adults, while transmitting a strong sense of time and space.” The film is an adaptation of David Grossman's The Book of Intimate Grammar.
It is mid-1960's Jerusalem, in a dreary and seedy housing project. Aaron seems to be an artistic and nerdy boy, poetic and imaginative, but life has him feeling dejected. He doesn't seem to want to grow up into this world. He is very short and is not growing, and his over-bearing mother accuses him of doing it on purpose to spite her! Perhaps he is doing it on purpose. He doesn't seem attracted to the adult world that he sees around him of hairy armpits, loveless marriage and disgusting sex.
Aaron is a bit of a loner and an individualist. In a desperate attempt to get the attention and support of his friends, he tries to lead them on all sorts of escapades. He sees himself as a Houdini character, often having himself tied up and locked up. It is quite obvious how happy he feels each time that his best friend saves him from one of his tricks. But will his friend be there the next time and the next time? According to David Grossman, who spoke at the premiere screening at the Jerusalem Film Festival last week – when the book was published, a critic wrote that the dejected and rejected Aaron could only emerge from his tricks with the help of the empathetic reader.
This is a film about adolescent turmoil. Aaron's stilted growth can be seen as a reflection of his unhappiness, his looking around at the world and not liking what he sees. It is also a metaphor for the State of Israel -- this is a depressing period (before the coming-of-age of the Six Day War) when people didn't have a lot of money, when life was bleak, even going to a concert or the opera was out of the question. Aaron is painfully lonely. His mother (played by Orly Zilbershatz, who also played the mother in a remarkable performance in Nir Bergman's first feature, Broken Wings) is not capable of providing him with the emotional support that he so desperately needs. His grandmother is sent to a nursing home and his sister (who offers him some minimal affection) is leaving him to join the army. When his best friend and girlfriend go off together on a youth movement trip to the Galilee, Aaron is left all alone.
Filmmaker Nir Bergman's previous film, Broken Wings, is a triumph of filmmaking about adolescent bereavement.
Intimate Grammar is available from the producer, Assaf Amir at Norma Productions or write to firstname.lastname@example.org