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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Thursday, November 04, 2010

entry arrow3:23 AM | A Quiet Man's Disquiet



Restraint is the most blessed thing in Haim Tabakman's debut film Einayim Pkuhot [Eyes Wide Open, 2009]. You can see it in the way he directs the flow of movement, sound, and images in this brave Israeli film about a tzaddik ("a righteous man"), a family man named Aaron who one day, amidst a downpour, takes in a stranger named Ezri and hires him to help run the butcher shop he inherits from his newly-deceased father. At first, this hesitant invitation is doled out of charity and compassion, something that comes naturally to this quiet man who has been, for years and years, seemingly content in the trappings of his life in a conservative Hassidic Jewish community in Jerusalem. But friendship with Ezri deepens into something else, and the community starts to rally, in subtle mechanisms as well as outright ostracism, to expunge what they feel is "evil" invading their neighborhood. This is the stuff of fireworks, but Tabakman chooses his path well: he tells the story quietly, aided with just the right kind of mood music to assert the melancholy air of Aaron's life, which is now beginning to lighten up a bit as he finds a strange awakening he welcomes, despite all looming threats. "I feel alive. I need him," he tells the rabbi who comes to advise him for one last time before the neighborhood's morality brigade, composed mostly of young Torah students, comes back to inflict serious harm on his business or his person. That Zohar Strauss, who plays Aaron, says this without sentimentality is a hallmark of the film's beautiful restraint, which Ran Danker, who plays Ezri, also inhabits in his downplaying of his character's youthful virility, his rebel status. There is so much about this film that I can take to, the repressive mechanisms of closed-off communities, the ambivalence of desire, the need to understand the people we love despite the pain that can come with that understanding, the struggles of holding on to tradition and what the tenets of our faiths tell us to do against what feels right and true within our very souls. It is a quiet, nuanced film that many people will not get, most probably. That will be the sad reality for these people of such shallow understanding of human nature.

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[1] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





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