Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eyes Wide Open

Einayim Pkuhot; drama, Israel, 2009; D: Haim Tabakman, S: Zohar Strauss, Ran Danker, Ravit Rozen

Jerusalem. Aaron is an ultra-Orthodox Jew working in a butcher shop, married and father of two kids. One day, after placing an ad that he needs an assistant in the shop, a young lad, Ezri shows up, who wants to study the Thora. Ezri is a good student - but gay. When he starts drawing a portrait of Aaron, Ezri tries to kiss him. Aaron is at first confused, but likes the lad and eventually they start a relationship. Word of mouth reaches other religious people, who consider homosexuality a sin, and they place ads that Aaron's butchery is "unclean". Aaron does not know what to do. He confesses everything to his wife and takes a ritual bath.

"Eyes Wide Open" is another gay drama set in a forbidden-unorthodox setting - while "Yossi & Yagger" were set in an IDF unit, and "Brokeback Mountain" challenged some cowboy cliches, director Haim Tabakman takes an even more daring move, by unfolding a male-male love story in the backdrop of an Orthodox Jewish community, a highly unusual choice that enabled him to dwell not only on some issues regarding bigotry and intolerance, but also on the negative effects when such vice is commanded by certain extremely conservative religious rules. On the other hand, the spatial setting of a butchery where the hero, Aaron, works in, is one of the most inappropriate settings for any love story to develop. Tabakman leads a minimalistic, honest and emotional storyline that explores some "dead ends" in people's lives (Aaron is happy while with Ezri, but also unhappy because all his friends do not want to accept his sudden homosexual side), and gives a dignified plea to humanity and understanding, whereas all the actors are great, especially Zohar Strauss in the leading role. A good and ambitious film, but a one that does not offer a broader spectrum of a viewing experience, sole for one, and one only: a grey, existential drama.


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