Shelter (מסתור) is a thriller by Eran Riklis, one of Israel’s greatest filmmakers, known for his many prize-winning films including Syrian Bride, The Lemon Tree, Cup Final, The Human Resources Manager, and Dancing Arabs.
As in The Lemon Tree, here, in Shelter, he tackles the subject of relationships between women across the divide, showing the compassion and humanity of the “other.” But the films are so different!
In this film, Nomi is sent on a mission by the Mossad to babysit Mona, a Lebanese informer, hidden in Germany, having just undergone extensive plastic surgery in preparation for her promised new life in Canada. It seems like a simple mission, but nothing is simple when the Mossad is involved.
An adaption of Shulamit Hareven’s story The Link, the film combines two genres. One is a psychological study of two women and how the relationship between them intensifies as they are confined to an apartment in Hamburg. Their personal stories are told through flashbacks as they confide in each other. Nomi has spent the last two years stricken with grief as she has been mourning her husband who was killed by a bullet meant for her. Now, she wants to have the baby that she never had when her husband was alive. Mona, previously the lover of the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon, is feeling cooped up, fearful for her own personal well-being and her future, and crazy with worry about her 8-year-old son who is hidden in a monastery in Lebanon. Both women are struggling with issues of identity, hiding who they are, trying on wigs, wondering who and where they will be when all of this is over.
The film is also a thriller about international espionage and intrigue. Tension mounts as Nomi realizes that she is being watched, as the Hezbollah are searching for Mona who has betrayed them, and as the Germans and the Americans are hoping to use Mona as a pawn in their game of buying favors with Iran against Hezbollah.
I enjoy thrillers, but I don’t usually find them so compelling! This film is a particularly captivating and powerful story about two women, their fears and their worries, wonderfully performed and well-crafted, filled with tension and twists and turns. It seems that betrayal is the name of the game. And loyalty brings redemption.
Shelter is available from Menemsha Films.