Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy at the Movies

Who would have thought you could make a gripping movie about the rivalry of two Talmudic scholars?  It doesn't seem a promising subject, to say the least.  But the idie Israeli film (in Hebrew, with English subtitles) FOOTNOTE does just that.

The movie stars two actors I never heard of, Shlomo Bar'aba and Lior Ashkenzai, who play father and son, both scholars at a major university.  The father, whose work of thirty years was scooped before publication by someone else, has been reduced to a footnote in Talmudic history.  The son is a scholarly success.  The movie explores family rivalry, sacrifice, bitterness, and the phenomenon of prizes overshadowing the works they are supposed to recognize (not unknown in science fiction as well).  The plot twists and turns, and everyone is confronted with hard and plausible choices.  Best of all, the characters are never divided into "good" and "bad;" all are completely believable and humanly flawed, and the lead actors are terrific.  

Something I was very aware of throughout, although it has nothing to do with the main story, was the high degree of security at the Israeli university.  There are guards, metal detectors, and authorized-entry lists at nearly every building.  The guards are heavily armed.  Everyone accepts this without comment, or even without noticing it much.  This must be the price of living in Israel.

 This is a very good movie.  Go see it.

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