"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, March 11, 2012

The Fifth Heaven by Dina Zvi Riklis

Dina Zvi Riklis is well-known to Israeli film connoisseurs – her first feature film, Dreams of Innocence (1993), was about two adolescents who comprehend life and its illusions better than their own father, an immigrant, uprooted from the world of his youth, forever searching for his childhood dreams. Her television drama, Purple Lawns (1998), dealt with issues of religious versus secular.  Her greatest film and the most complex -- Three Mothers (2006), previously reviewed on this blog -- is about love and devotion between sisters, love that becomes bitter over the years due to betrayal, jealousy and pain.

Dina Zvi Riklis' most recent film, The Fifth Heaven (2011), based on the novel by Rachel Eytan, is a touching and authentic period piece, set in 1944 Palestine at an orphanage for girls.  

The tragic story focuses on Maya, a 13-year-old girl whose mother deserted her and fled to America.  Maya's father is remarrying and decides to place her at an orphanage.  When she arrives, the head of the orphanage is confused and shocked to see her, recalling his love affair with the girl's mother years ago. 

In addition to the power struggles and cruelty of the girls themselves, the workers at the orphanage provide an entire array of interesting characters for the girls to learn from – the pediatrician who heads the orphanage, a woman who is ostracized for dating a British soldier, and a resistance fighter who is hiding weapons on the roof of the orphanage. 

Maya is a bright girl who understands more than the adults around her like to think. As she is struggling to understand her life, her loneliness and her dreams, she expresses herself through writing stories.  She is searching for love and in one of her stories, the angels promise the little girl that she will eventually find love.

The story takes place on the background of the greater political issues of the period – the war in Europe, fighting the British in Palestine, building a state, and the tensions between the idealistic socialists and the capitalists.  Not surprisingly, these issues intrude upon the lives of the girls and the workers, all living together in the orphanage outside of Tel Aviv.     

The film is distributed by Go2Films 

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