Shadow on the Early Days of Naïve Belief
14th International film festival Bratislava, 9 – 15 November, 2012: Epilogue (Hayuta ve Berl) by Amir Manor (Israel)
Old age is a subject that the movies and movie goers tend to avoid as it’s not funny, not nice or beautiful, nor sexy and stories of life at the “third age” can’t compete with popular 3d blockbusters, though Up tried to do it in it’s own smiling way.
Within Israeli cinema, I can remember just a few: the wonderful short Slower by Abraham Hefner or the painful moments in Floch by Dan Wolman based on the story by the legendry Hanoch Levin. With less affection I could mention Eskimos In the Galilee by Jonathan Paz or some “burekas” films, superficial and ugly as popular exploitation local comedies can be.
From international cinema we can recall On Golden Pond by Mark Rydell, Away From Her by Sarah Polley and Michael Haneke’s Amour, the big winner of the last Cannes Film Festival, which is a direct, sharp and unmerciful look at the contemptible nature of old age.
You need to have a good portion of courage, especially in roaring Israel to try and talk about it so openly as Amir Manor, with not so little help from his friends who volunteered to give him a hand, in Epilogue (Hayuta and Berl). This is a picture that creates in front of us the less exposed moments of our damaged, weak, vulnerable, defenceless self as reflected by the distorted face of social, cultural and economic, capitalistic piggishness.
Manor talks about old age but he uses it to say one or two things about our merciless and unthankful society towards those who built the country, sacrificed, dreamt and paid a heavy price of self concession, hoping to gain some protection from us, who really benefit from their work, at their time of need. A shattered dream. This is a film that cast a dark shadow on those early days of naïve belief, the wrong way of existential cynicism.
Epilogue is the story of two people – Berl, an 84 years old and Hayuta his 80 years old wife who live in one of the poor neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv. Their only son went long ago to New York after quarrelling with his idealistic father who could not accept the son’s betrayal. The couple, who gave their best years and their money for the Zionist ideal with the notion of building a right and decent society that looks after the weak ones, find themselves now at the mercy of the social security, cruel and indifferent clerks and the good will of people along the way.
The film follows the two protagonists, step-by-step, together and apart, on their last day. A day that begins with the extreme, cynical, sad-funny episode of the visit of a young inattentive social worker. She accompanied Hayuta to the drugstore, where she can’t afford to buy all the medications she needs. Meanwhile Berl is forced to sell his beloved books for pennies to get some money for the day’s expenses, books he cherishes so much as they contain the ideas and vision of his idols, the philosophers of Zionism. Hayuta visiting the cinema for the last time to watch her favourite movie Indiana Jones and Berl trying to organize a meeting of a “cycle”, a group of people that will maintain mutual support to each other. An idea that will never come to life.
So, slowly and attentively we fallow the couple, each one and his business, a couple who will be united later on in the darkness of their apartment, on the eve of their wedding anniversary that will be their last day in life. They cannot bear the shame of their existence. Manor fallows them at their own pace, slowly, tenderly; with a bit of pain and in a brave manner that does not hide anything under the rug. Encounters with nice gestures of understanding and supporting people along with brutal, sometimes violent encounters with others, more needy then they are, some of them even starving. This is the rotten tree that grew of the modern soil; this is what’s left from the great ideas. Too late for them. Maybe not for us?
True, the film is not faultless, especially with its tempo and editing. The story could have been tightened. But even though, the emotion comes through, entering slowly and firmly under the skin.
Many known cinema and T.V actors, some of them real celebrities, helped to make the film, sometimes even taking small roles – a few seconds on the screen. But the floor, or in this case the whole screen belongs to the wonderful veterans Yosef Carmon and Rivka Gur as Hayuta and Berl. No other actor and actress were better in this year’s edition of the Bratislava Film Festival and the acting award went exactly to whom it belongs.
Gidi Orsher, FEDEORA.eu