Saturday, 10 March 2012

Eyes Wide Open

Caught up with this on DVD. Is it really just a film about gay orthodox Jews or is there more to it? There's more to it - a lot more.

Aaron Fleischman (Zohar Strauss) has just buried his father and takes over the family Kosher Butchers shop n the Mea Shearim district. He advertises for an assistant and Ezri (Ran Danker) turns up and bags the job. Why Ezri has turned up in Jerusalem is unclear but it seems he is hiding something. Ezri has been expelled from a Yeshiva where he was studying the teachings of the Jewish faith. He has returned to Jerusalem in search of his former male lover.

The film's pace is often very slow - but this adds to the sense of drama and the development of the emotional aspect of the storyline which is handled very creatively by the cast and Director (Haim Tabakman). The film also handles the dynamics of the Haredi Community and Synagogue life which depicts Aaron as a prominent student in the local Yeshiva . 

As the Rabbi teaches a form of restrained liberalism - if it feels good do it - so Aaron's bisexuality is awakened by Ezri and they begin a physical relationship. Aaron yields to temptation, but not without having doubt. “How did I get there?” he whispers to himself. The community begin to suspect and initially gentle questions are raised which in time become direct public action as Aaron is unwilling and unable to end the relationship. The relationship with Ezri brings grace and fullness in a way in which he has never experienced before which makes him more alive than he has ever been. Meanwhile he conducts a normal relationship with his wife Rivka (Tinkerbell) and presides as head of the household over his four children. Rivka becomes increasingly suspicious.

This is not so much a film about orthodox Judaism and homosexuality as it is a film about individual fulfilment, hospitality, love and community. When the teachings of the community directly coincide with your life experience are you wrong for following them in that particular way - especially when both are committed to the ways of the community in every way? The film also explores questions of how communities should act to preserve their identity and challenge individuals who upset the equilibrium or seemingly choose to misinterpret the teaching they receive. It's also a film that invites exploration of forgiveness and reconciliation - although these are only hinted at by the way the film ends.

This is not a  swash-buckling thriller but if you want a thoughtful privileged peek into the lives of a community that is largely closed to outsiders this is for you. It's major gift is in sensitively exploring the behaviour of an individual when their actions are at odds with their community and although love is never spoken of between Aaron and Ezri, the exploration of the intimacy they share is compelling.

Well worth watching - if you can cope with sub-titles. I'll give it 7.5/10.

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