Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: Ha’berech
France/Israel/Germany, 2021. Arte France Cinema, Cinereach, Decia Films, Komplizen Film, Les Films du Bal, Pie Films. Screenplay by Nadav Lapid. Cinematography by Shai Goldman. Produced by Osnat Handelsman-Keren, Talia Kleinhendler, Judith Lou Lévy, Eve Robin. Production Design by Omri Yekutieli. Film Editing by Nili Feller.
Nadav Lapid, always the provocateur, directly takes on the Israeli arts community and its politically-motivated strictures after having raised eyebrows with his more subtly critical earlier films. Y (Avshalom Pollak), a filmmaker who likely stands in as an avatar for Lapid himself, is preparing a film about Palestianian activist and folk hero Ahed Tamimi, drawn away from preliminary auditions by a trip he has been scheduled to take to an isolated desert town that is screening one of his films. Upon arrival he meets and immediately has an unspoken, erotically charged chemistry with the culture minister Yahalom (Nur Fibak) who welcomes him and takes him to his accommodations before they quickly get into their ideas of artistic freedom in a country that is very careful about what it will allow its most prominent artists to say about its perpetually explosive political situation, speaking to each other while surrounded by the beautiful but dangerous geological formations within which this place has been improbably populated. During his screening, Y chooses rather than sit and watch the film with the audience to draw Yahalom out to tell her stories about his youth in the Israeli army, which we flash back to without ever being sure of our narrator’s honesty and exactly what role he had to play in the traumatic memories that he relates. Lapid is not ambivalent about his views on the topic he has chosen and the movie feels more like a well-written screed than the more complex drama of The Kindergarten Teacher or the intelligent absurdity of Policeman; it’s almost as if he’s upset that the message wasn’t received in more obscure cinematic efforts of the past and he has let go of most of his pretences at artifice. A great deal of the visual splendour of this movie is cherishable, but the dazzling images and inventive camera moves feel more like a relief from the lecturing than a natural part of it, and the after-effect of the experience is too sober to make for a great night at the movies.
Cannes Film Festival Award: Jury Prize (tie)
Toronto International Film Festival: 2021