IN this 2012 Oscar-nominee for best Foreign Language Film, Israeli writer/director Joseph Cedar sets a father and a son at odds over professional achievement.
At Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Eliezer has spent 20 years writing a rigorously-authenticated original text of the Talmud, for which he expects to get a prestigious Israel Prize. A member of the nominating committee has published on the same topic. But a stuff-up in that committee leads to the prize going to Eliezer’s son Uriel, also a Talmudic scholar, whose writing examines Talmudic contemporary relevance.
The film deals with dramatic issues, principally a seemingly insoluble dichotomy that has become a serious conflict between father and son. As well as illuminating the behaviour of academics competing for recognition, it scarifies the every branch of the family.
Serious stuff on a minor scale, this. But I enjoyed it equally for the subtle way that Cedar has leavened it with humour. Not the in-your-face made-in-the-USA Jewish comedy of TV sitcoms and Hollywood comedy, but humour offering unique perspectives needing careful scrutiny to uncover its real impact.
Some may not find the sequence, in which a security guard refuses to let Eliezer re-enter the Israel Prize ceremony after popping out for a breath of air leaving his ID in the auditorium, to be clever or humorous. I thought it a wonderful exposition of the way Jewish people bring humour to bear on adversity. I could hear the fiddler playing on the roof during that and many other moments during the film.
At Greater Union