Dir: Avishai Sivan. Israel. 2010. 86mins


A rarity in the context of the insistently explicit Israeli cinema, Avishai Sivan’s secretive debut feature, bordering on the experimental, is the kind of film usually restricted to selective art houses at best.

This is a coming-of-age tale in the Orthodox community, couched in a thick layer of guilt.

With its fixed, immobile camera set-ups, frozen facial expressions, anonymous performers, minimalist dialogue and grim demeanor, this is a coming-of-age tale in the Orthodox community, couched in a thick layer of guilt and refusing to deliver any particulars on its characters beyond the bare necessities of a sketchy plot.

Isaac, a shy, docile, confused adolescent on the brink of adulthood, is trying to come to grips with his faith, his sexuality, his parents and his body. Unable to communicate his growing anguish to anyone around him, he silently wanders alone for hours, mostly at night, within and close to the Orthodox part of town in which he lives.

He is diagnosed with kidney problems and later with a ruptured testicle that requires surgical intervention. He goes through the entire medical procedure on his own, without sharing anything with his timidly concerned parents who are still haunted by their own past sins and would never dare talk about such matters out loud.

Once out of the hospital he goes back to his restless ways and even approaches a prostitute who chases him away when he refuses to wear a condom. Later he finds a drunken woman, helps her home and once there, as she drops unconscious on her bed, rapes her and runs away.

Now he can go home, burdened by the same kind guilt that has been wearing his parents down for many years, and remain shrouded just like them, in the same kind of silence.

The film is a remarkably meticulous study in framing and lighting, underlined by the long takes in which the camera (with one exception) never moves. The visual rigidity reflects the unbending social context, and the one exception - the camera travelling parallel to Isaac running away after the rape - typically comes at the one instance when the strict rules of his existence were broken.

The acting follows the same pattern. The facial expressions hiding rather revealing thoughts and emotions and suggesting that there is much more that could be said but will not be spelled out in this context. The spare dialogue never offers more than hints with the entire film being conceived as a metaphor in which any unnecessary details are automatically eliminated. Patient observers can use their imagination to flesh out this skeleton of a story into a full blown drama, the impatient ones may very well balk and leave.

Production Companies: The Mouth Agape
International sales: The Mouth Agape, +972 50 7285159
Producers: Keren Michael, Shai Goldman, Redi Sivan, Avishai Sivan
Screenplay: Avishai Sivan
Cinematography: Shai Goldman
Production designer: Yuval Yang, Lin Baru
Editor: Nili Feller, Avishai Sivan
Cast: Omri Fuhrer, Ali Nassar, Ronit Peled, Shani Ben Haim, Itamar Glucksmann, Liran Shabatai, Rinat Matatov, Rami Baruch, Tzahi Grad, Tami Grad