Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Film Review: Aloni’s ‘Forgiveness’ Is Unforgivable

Posted by dopaminesurge on February 4, 2008

forgiveness film
Israeli-Palestinian ‘piece’. Is that a nip-tat?

For once, the angry reaction to an Israeli film isn’t based in the unfairness of its message, but in the embarrassing quality of its production. Udi Aloni should be ashamed of himself. His 2006 work, “Forgiveness,” could be easily mistaken for a first term project of a freshman film school student. It’s sloppy, incoherent and boring. His attempts at an avant-garde, psychedelic ambience failed, resulting in awkward and unbelievable characters, dialogue and story-lines. The “magical realism” around which the poor excuse for a plot is based is stupid – plainly stupid.

Sitting in the theater with a non-Jewish friend who had never viewed an Israeli movie, I felt humiliated. With the recent surge of fine Israeli film flooding Jewish film festivals and the Oscar-snubbed The Band’s Visit being hailed as one of the top movies of the year, it’s highly unfortunate that this trite mess might currently represent the capacity of Israeli art and film to anyone. Israeli artists have the responsibility to express different points of view from within, whether or not they are mainstream and of course, regardless of whether they may offend members of the audience. In fact, it’s hard to imagine an Israeli film that touches upon Israel’s foreign affairs without offending anyone. However, merely being an Israeli does not grant anyone the privilege of an audience.

The “story” of Forgiveness is about Jewish-American David (Itay Tiran) who volunteers to the IDF in an effort to distance himself from his aloof father. After making a tragic mistake with a Palestinian woman, David has a psychotic break and is committed to a mental hospital built on the remains of Deir Yassin, which is haunted by ghosts of the past and, apparently, present. The Israeli doctors have produced a medication that “creates a black hole to bridge over the bad memory” so that David may live a normal life. Although cautioned against leaving by the psychotic Muselman, an unconvincing character performed by the usually stellar Moni Momoshov, David takes the medication and returns to Manhattan. There, he relives his experience with a different Palestinian woman and realizes he must embark upon a journey to understand the past. Alon’s message is that unless the past is confronted, it will be repeated. But among clichés, pretension and poor performances, the message is lost as trivial.

Alon’s first mistake is scrambling to find improbable excuses for his characters to speak English. At one point, Israeli actor Tiran treats the audience to a scene where his American character is speaking Hebrew with an English accent tainted by the actor’s own Hebrew accent. It was an unprofessional, low-quality display. In another scene, an underground dance rave bursts into Bollywood-like coordinated dancing that boggles the mind with its misplacement. In a third scene, Alon condescends to his audience with a transparent, simple-minded representation of the “Bad” soldier who talks about shooting Arabs and the “Good” soldier who picks up their belongings off the ground onto their truck and tells them one day there will be peace. There isn’t a moment out of 94 minutes that qualify as nuanced or sophisticated representations of the Israeli-Palestinian reality.

Again and again, the audience is left to ask “why?” Why is the psychiatrist sleeping with the officer? Why are there candles surrounding the bed of a psychotic, dangerous in-patient? Why does the cocktail waitress spontaneously agree to dance fully clothed in the fountain with a customer? Forgiveness fails to suspend anyone’s disbelief, instead resulting at best in confusion, and more commonly in aggravation.

Mr. Alon is not a storyteller – he is a painter. He should take mercy on audiences everywhere by returning to still work.

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2 Responses to “Film Review: Aloni’s ‘Forgiveness’ Is Unforgivable”

  1. Oyster said

    Oy, this sounds like a real bomb.

    And, duly, because it is Israeli and aligns with the political bias of many behind the SFJFF, it will probably end up being headlined come this summer. It begs the question: are there even any Israelis involved in the SFJFF?

    Click on the link to the film’s website. This Aloni character is obviously very delusional. Read his “manifesto” on the Messiah. He comes off as a crank, not an enlightened philosophical director with a sincere story to tell.

  2. Ranen said

    I heartily disagree with the “film review” posted here. “Forgiveness” is by no means a perfect film. But it is exceptionally creative, soul-searching, and genuinely insightful. Acting, cinematography, and the plot itself are highly memorable. This is not a film that is easy to forget–it really gets under your skin with a powerful message
    about memory, guilt, and the meaning of being a human being. Definitely worth seeing and discussing!

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