"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.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Michal Bat-Adam

Actress, director and scriptwriter, Michal Bat-Adam, has directed ten feature films, all dealing with complex relationships, unique friendships and passionate loves of women. Her most recent film, Maya (2010), is an in-depth look at an aspiring actress and how she becomes emotionally involved with her first major role.
Maya is an acting student. After a major disappointment, she finally succeeds in landing a major role, playing a young woman who goes crazy when her parents force her to have an abortion. The script is written by the director of the play, with whom Maya becomes involved, and this is a story that actually happened to his cousin, whom he loved. As Maya is becoming obsessively involved with her character, she goes to a mental hospital to learn more and she begins to see things radically differently from the director. Slowly, we see that Maya can't stop herself from becoming her character, and from interpreting her role in her own way, thereby offending her lover/director/playwright.
According to an Israeli radio interview with Michal Bat Adam (broadcast on Reshet Bet, May 14, 2010), this film is about the struggle between the truth of two different perspectives. Although the director sets the stage, the actress also is a human being with feelings and interpretations and experiences, and her perspective is also expressed.
However, as Maya becomes more and more drawn into her character, we must ask ourselves: where is the line that delineates between the actress' real self and the role that she is playing?
As the first Israeli woman to direct a feature film, Bat-Adam made her debut film, Moments, in 1979, a prize-winning film which expresses emotions and feelings cinematically rather than through the use of dialogue. Seen in flashback, the story is about Yola (Bat-Adam), a pensive young writer who meets Anne, a French tourist, on the train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This chance meeting develops into a complex, intense relationship which includes a powerful love between two women, a love expressed without physical contact, and later through the sexual sharing of the same male partner. By sharing her partner, Yola expresses her love for Anne.
More a love scene between two women than a three-way love affair, this is Yola's unique way of sharing intimacy with another woman. This triangular love scene offended the sensitivities of the 1979 Israeli Censorship Board and had to be trimmed before its Israeli release. In today’s world, it wouldn’t have caused any problems!
A film of telling looks, self-absorption and silences, Moments challenges traditional relationships and portrays more "between the lines", than up front on the screen. It is a story of metaphysical lesbian love which mellows with the years.
Two of Bat-Adam's films, A Thin Line (1980) and Aya, An Imagined Autobiography (1994), portray mother-daughter relationships. A Thin Line, Bat-Adam's second feature film, is a psychological study of a Tel Aviv woman with emotional problems. Similar to Moments in its emphasis on mood, feelings and facial expressions, A Thin Line is an autobiographical film which focuses on a mother's dependency on her 11-year-old daughter who struggles to sustain her in times of need. The girl's story is continued in Aya: An Imagined Autobiography, a more profound look at the emotional turmoil of the girl's life. Combining elements from her previous films, Aya (Bat-Adam), now a grown woman haunted by memories of her past, is making a film about her own life. Moving between past and present, the film does not tell a story as such, but instead provides fragments from Aya's life. "God exists in the little things," says filmmaker Aya, as the film concludes and the pages of her script whirl in the wind around her. Similar to other Bat-Adam films, Aya is a highly touching personal document about relationships between mother and daughter, the hardships of young girls growing up, and the conflicts of mature women as they grapple with memories of their past.
These two films, A Thin Line and Aya, An Imagined Autobiography, portray images of the Israeli/Jewish mother that have shifted from stereotypical portrayals of the overbearing and manipulative mother to rich characters grappling with difficult relationships. Bat-Adam has added more nuance and complexity to the classical stereotype (which originates in Yiddish and Hollywood films) of the Jewish mother.
The feature films directed by Michal Bat-Adam are Moments (1979), A Thin Line (1980), Boy Meets Girl (1983), The Lover (1986), A Thousand and One Wives (1989), The Deserter's Wife (1992), Aya: An Imagined Autobiography (1994), Love at Second Sight (1998), Life is Life (2003) and Maya (2010).

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