INCITEMENT (Israel, 2019)

January 30, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. Since November 4, 1995, the day that Yigal Amir shot and killed Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, speculation has existed that there could have been peace in the Middle East – if only the assassination had not occurred. The film opens on the first Oslo Peace Accord in 1994. Why was there a segment of the population concerned about possible peace? They were angry at the idea of surrendering their “promised land” to Palestinians and the Chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat.

Writer-director Yaron Zilberman and co-writers Yair Hizmi and Ron Leshem aren’t focused on what an end to the hostilities might look like today. Instead they offer up a psychological study of Yigal Amir (played by a forceful Yehuda Nahari Halevi) and what drove him to take the fateful action that changed the course of history. The film is presented as a slow-build thriller, and it mainly takes us through Yigal’s transformation from activist to assassin … a giant and significant step.

Yigal is a Law student at Bar-Ilan, and the college campus is filled with protests and tables dispensing information on all sides. Soon enough, Yigal is seeking counsel from rabbis who seem to be on board with revenge. When someone becomes obsessed, it’s not uncommon for them to ‘hear what they want to hear.’ Yigal sees Rabin fitting into the Jewish law of “pursuer/Rodif and Informer”, and he believes himself to be guided by Talmud and rabbis. The film is not about Yigal’s glory, but rather WHY he did it.

Alternatingly charming and frightening, intelligent and foolish, Yigal organizes a rebel movement for what he sees as a coming war. To him, there is no line between religion and politics. With archival footage of Netanyahu speaking out against Rabin and the peace project, it just pushes Yigal that much closer to action. There are three women who cross paths with Yigal and have varying impacts on him. His mother convinces him he is due for greatness (again, he interprets in his own way); Nava (Daniela Kertesz) is attracted to him, but can’t come to grips with his beliefs; and Margalit (Sivan Mast), who respects Yigal and understands how to lead him deeper down his chosen path.

There is a terrific scene between Yigal and his father, where the parent is emphasizing to the son he knows he’s losing that only the hand of God should determine Rabin’s fate … not an idealistic young man. The Oslo II accord from 1995 leads Yigal to conclude that Rabin is a traitor, and that it’s God’s will for Yigal to “let him go out like a tyrant.” This is all chilling to watch, and it helps us comprehend the vicious cycle of violence that plagues the Middle East. The film was Israel’s official submission for Academy Award consideration.

watch the trailer:


A LATE QUARTET (2012)

November 13, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. This is one of those little indie flicks that will probably get lost in the shuffle. Director and co-writer Yaron Zilberman delivers a twist to the familiar life lessons and substitute family story lines, and is wise enough to let his outstanding cast do what they do best.

It is by no means a great movie, but there are some terrific and wonderful moments thanks mostly to some top notch acting. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanik and Christopher Walken make up a famed string quartet who are approaching their 25th year together. All heck breaks loose within this group that thrives on precision when the patriarch (Walken) is diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This announcement is followed immediately by a battle of egos between the two violinists (Hoffman and Ivanek), a falling out between the married couple (Keener and Hoffman) when he has an affair, and a break in trust when Ivanek starts a relationship with the much younger daughter (Imogen Poots) of Keener and Hoffman.  It’s kinda like Peyton Place with classical music.

If this sounds like a dysfunctional family, that’s a very accurate description. These four people are outstanding musicians who made the decision to forgo solo careers and build something even better with the quartet. It’s a life lesson that four people working in harmony are both much stronger and more fragile than any one person going it alone. The music is what drives these four despite their other issues. Watching them battle through the challenges is quite similar to any film based on familial shenanigans, but the actors are so good that a few moments really resonate.

The chamber music is a joy to listen to, though the plot devices are often quite familiar and predictable. Christopher Walken has a couple of scenes that are alone worth the price of admission. Ivanek expertly captures the ego-maniacal first violinist, and Keener is perfectly cast as the one who can’t help but wonder how her life turned out so. Mr. Hoffman may be up for an Oscar thanks to his performance in The Master, but it’s these “small” roles which I find so complimentary of his talent.

Kind of off topic, there is a scene featuring Wallace Shawn drinking wine as he converses with Walken. Wallace Shawn drinking wine will forever remind me of The Princess Bride and the lesson of going up against a Sicilian when death is involved! To summarize, the individual pieces here are much stronger than the overall film … just the opposite of a world class quartet.

**Note: that’s the real Nina Lee (world class cellist) who steals the scene near the end

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you enjoy “little” films with great acting

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: a soap opera disguised as top notch chamber music has you longing for the next Bond film

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX66lRnNmqs