Beyond the Mountains and Hills, directed by Eran Kolirin, is the story of a dysfunctional family on the background of life in Jerusalem.
David spent 27 years as an officer in the Israeli army. Having reached the grade of lieutenant-colonel, he is now retiring. This film is the story of how he and his family cope with the changes. David has to learn to adapt to the business world, to being at home with his family, and to learning to like the things that his wife likes. But it turns out that things are not so easy. His wife is a high school teacher who is attracted to one of her students; his daughter is involved with left-wing causes; his son is socially awkward; and he has his own frustrations.
Every scene makes you stand back and feel emotional distance. There is no warmth between the characters. In fact, there is suspicion, stilted dialogue, and physical distance – all of which adds to the implied discomfort of the characters, and thence the discomfort of the viewer. This is a not-so-subtle technique for criticizing dysfunctional elements of Israeli society. The school teacher is ridiculed by her students. One army officer is apparently screwing his unit’s young social worker. The Arabs are seen as terrorists by the security services and the viewer can’t help but see them as potential rapists.
The most difficult criticism of Israel is in the story told by the motivational speaker at David’s attempted entry into the business world. My interpretation of this story is that you have to do some tough things in a tough world. In other words, Israel is located in a bad neighborhood, and as a result, is forced to make some difficult choices.
There is just enough betrayal, revenge, illicit sex and personal frustration to make this an interesting story. But something is missing in the delivery. You probably remember that Eran Kolirin also made the Band’s Visit. But this new film has none of the charm or in-depth characterization that you loved in the Band’s Visit.