September 17, 2007

חופשת קיץ - My Father my Lord

My Father My Lord a.k.a. Hofshat Kaits (חופשת קיץ), by David Volach.

'Profound and deeply moving...'

From the Variety review (excerpts)
Set in a contemporary Israeli ultra-Orthodox community, "My Father My Lord" unfolds in a self-enclosed universe blessed with fleeting epiphanies but overshadowed by immutable, incomprehensible laws.

Helmer-scribe Volach knows this world from personal experience, having been born into an ultra-Orthodox family of 19 children and having lived and studied in such a Hasidic cocoon until the age of 25.

The atypically small family of the revered Rabbi Eidelman (Assi Dayan) consists merely of his wife Esther (Sharon Hacochen Bar) and his young son Menahem (Elan Griff). But whatever the family lacks in size it more than makes up for in warmth, each member expressing a wealth of interrelationship and affection in every glance.

Rabbi Eidelman bestows the same bemused fondness upon his wife and child as he displays for his beloved books. Esther lights up every time she sees her son, radiating a joy that is positively palpable. Menahem, a dreamy imaginative child, happily climbs all over the synagogue, watching his father teaching or observing a dove nesting outside the window, entranced with the wonders of nature and protective of all living things.

If family members speak more eloquently with their eyes than with their tongues, such perfect harmony can thrive only in silence. Once Menahem starts to innocently question his father, the rabbi turns into an autocratic oracle of the Word, and the Word sounds the death knell for all curiosity, variety or change.

A photo of painted tribesmen becomes an artifact of idolatry and must be torn up. A devoted dog crouched by its dying mistress' side is summarily denied a heaven, a soul or any importance. And, in accordance with an obscure passage from the Torah, a mother bird is shooed away from her chicks [...].

In failing to accord any importance to the phenomenological richness of nature or the immediacy of the moment (according to the rabbi, the whole universe exists solely to serve the observant Jew), Eidelman turns away from his son, unwittingly letting him die.

'... but a bit too "art house" for my tastes'

Although the Variety review praises "[the picture] which deservedly snagged Tribeca's best pic prize, [and] combines great emotional accessibility with the sheer exoticism of a totally alien culture, making it an arthouse dream", I think that the slighlty overdone sophistication in the camera movements and the editing were a distraction from the contents of the movie.

I recommend it warmly, though.

Thanks to the IMDb reviewer, MitchB-6, who coined the phrase 'Profound and deeply moving, but a bit too "art house" for my tastes'. As you can see, I borrowed everything from others for this review ;-)

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