Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Haganenet
Israel/France, 2014. Pie Films, Haut et Court, Arte France Cinema, Rabinovich Film Fund Cinema Project, Recanati Foundation, ARTE, L’Aide aux Cinemas du Monde, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee, Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres et du Developpement International, Institut Francais, Jerusalem International Film Lab, Mifal Hapais. Screenplay by Nadav Lapid. Cinematography by Shai Goldman. Produced by Osnat Handelsman-Keren, Talia Kleinhendler, Carole Scotta. Music by Michael Emet. Production Design by Miguel Markin. Costume Design by Doron Ashkenazi. Film Editing by Era Lapid.
A Tel Aviv kindergarten teacher named Nira spends her free time in a poetry group, bringing her compositions to group sessions where she and her fellow students read their work out loud and evaluate each other’s forms of expression. She is amazed when a four year-old boy in her class named Yoav starts spouting his own free-form poetry, words of such profound simplicity that they fall like rain on her mind’s desert, and suggest to her that what she has on her hands is a child prodigy. The boy’s nanny tells her that she often writes his poems down to encourage his creativity, which is likely inspired by the lack of attention he gets at home thanks to his mother being absent and his father being too busy running some of the city’s swankiest restaurants. Nira doesn’t believe that anyone is doing enough for Yoav, becoming obsessed with being present for the next grand oration to issue from his lips, then stepping up her involvement in his life to an alarming extent. She takes him to a poetry reading under dubious circumstances and inspires his guardians’ anger and, instead of this making her realize her irresponsible behavior, she doubles down on what she believes is a moral commitment to celebrating something uniquely beautiful in a terrible world. What director Nadav Lapid wants to explore, however, is the question of whether she really cares about preventing the boy from having what is special about him stamped out by the unimaginative people around him, or is she simply using him to make up for what she lacks? This is a sensitive and disturbing drama, one which would be go on to be remade by Sara Colangelo four years later, both films of equal quality though this one plays in a more subdued key: where Colangelo is more interested in stakes and motivations, Lapid maintains a more distant remove from the action, calculating and almost cruel in his observation of helpless, foolish humans unable to avoid abusing each other in the name of soothing their own pain.