A snippet of what was on at the Jewish Film Festival this year
Let Yourself Go!
The film lacks focus and objective, but it’s not here to lecture you or to sell you a feel-good, uncomplicated lifestyle. Each character is just as messed up as the others, and there is really no definite solution to cure us from all of our various issues. It’s just fun. And that’s probably the point.
You might chuckle at times — I know I did. It’s definitely bizarre, transitioning from a calm, ironical satire of the capital’s elite to slapstick comedy. By the time the film reaches its climax, involving a stuttering convict, a nest box and hypnosis, the mood has drastically changed. Much like Elia Venezia, our protagonist, it transitions from fairly likeable but vaguely bland to relaxed and enjoyable.
After the internationally acclaimed The Great Beauty, Toni Servillo once again plays a man who feels like he’s too clever to enjoy himself. Only this time he looks like Freud. The ambiguous relationship between this grumpy old psychiatrist a spunky Spanish twenty-something, portrayed by Verònica Echegui, has something of the male fantasy, but the film slyly makes it so that you can argue both ways.
And of course, Rome. This film was clearly made for the The Eternal City. We get to see the hidden corners which are usually left out in mainstream films: the small stands selling crumbling art catalogues, the parks with bits and pieces of Renaissance sculptures left lying on the grass, the interior of a Baroque synagogue… But perhaps even more intriguing are the voyeuristic peeps into the beautiful homes of the Roman bourgeoisie: the bored, entitled intellectuals who ache to let themselves go.
A Quiet Heart
Set in an ultra-orthodox Jewish area of Tel-Aviv, A Quiet Heart follows the story of Naomi Sirad (Ania Bukstein) after having run away from her life as a concert pianist in Jerusalem. The film begins with Bukstein’s character in the midst of a crisis of confidence following multiple failed attempts in succeeding in classical music competitions as well as the sudden and unexplained abandonment of her by her boyfriend. As such, she seeks anonymity and isolated refuge in a run down, high-rise apartment block in the suburb of Kiryat Yovel.
However, instead of privacy, Naomi is met with further hardship as the result of her hard-line Jewish neighbours being suspect of her status as a secular, young, single female musician. It is only through her stumbling across a monastery and hearing an Italian monk (Giorgio Lupano) beautifully play the organ does Naomi begin to rediscover her love for music. It is through her learning to play a ‘Christian instrument’ that Naomi feels inspired to give a young and talented (but nonetheless unrefined) orphan from next door piano lessons.
Thus, the quiet and depressed journey that Naomi originally embarks on in moving to Tel-Aviv soon becomes one filled with more and more music and as such a revived sense of joie de vivre. Although the film has this sentimental notion at its heart, it is approached with an artistic seriousness as not to belittle the significance of the message that one can find great joy and unity where they least expect it.