Eyes Wide Open (Odeon Panton Street, 11 July)


Men in hats!

My eyes had great difficulty in staying open, and frequently strayed to my watch, hoping that this film would soon be over.  It was only an interest in seeing how much Modern Hebrew I would recognise on the basis of my imperfect knowledge of Biblical Hebrew that kept me in the cinema to the end.  The two gay lads who made up the rest of the audience may have had a different area of interest…

Anyway, the story is that Aaron Fleischmann is a butcher in an Orthodox part of Jerusalem; his father has recently died, leaving him to run the business himself (Fleischmann means ‘butcher’ in German).  He has a wife and five or so children.  A young man appears.  He has been kicked out of more than one yeshiva and is presently homeless.  He is called Ezri (meaning ‘my help’ in Hebrew).  Aaron takes him on to help in the shop and installs him in a storeroom above the shop.

After Ezri stares intently at Aaron for the purpose of sketching him, and they have gone bathing together, they become lovers.  In the room above the shop, and rather frequently.  Rivka, Aaron’s wife, tells him that she has had her mikvah [and is so ritually pure for intercourse] but it doesn’t have the same effect.  Rabbi Weissbein warns Aaron to get rid of Ezri.  He doesn’t, but he does join in a party to warn Israel Fischer off from relations with Sara Katz, since she needs to be married off to somebody else.

Whatever.   Things get worse.  Aaron eventually sees sense gives in to social pressure and Ezri leaves.  At the end, we see him bathing alone in the loveinducing pool and then disappearing beneath its unquiet waters…

So why was I so bored?  Well, it wasn’t very interesting to look at:  there was a lot of static staring at not-very-interesting things from the same camera angles.  The background of ‘normal’ life in this community was never really established, since the film starts with Aaron’s agonised response to his father’s death and as a useful interview here says it wasn’t concerned with realism anyway.  So external events are at best a background to Aaron’s inner struggles, which I must say I didn’t sympathise with that much:  if he had been shagging Sara Katz (surely less unacceptable from a social viewpoint) then the answer would have been Have some sense (not to mention compassion for your wife and children) man…So why is this supposed not to apply with Ezri?

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