If ‘Footnote’ will win the Oscar for the Best Foreign language film it will certainly by more than a footnote in the history of Israeli cinema, it will be a big event, the first time an Israeli film gets the Oscar. It’s just that I do not believe that this will happen (and of course I wish to be wrong), and I also believe that out of the four Israeli films that made it in the final selection of the category in the last five years Footnore is maybe the one that deserves less, as it is simply not as good as the previous three, including director Joseph Cedar‘s own Beaufort.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1445520/

 

Just to make clear, Footnote is not a bad film and it has its moments of real beauty. Many of these turn around the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the words and their meanings, the buildings block of the language and of the Jewish wisdom, and of the sacred text of the Bible. This is probably one of the elements that fascinated the jury of the Academia and made them decide to shortlist the film and include it in the prestigious final selection for the Oscar prize. The film is before all the story of the dramatic relationship between a father and a son who are unable to communicate in and within the terms of real life, but they do communicate and understand each other in codes of words. As with the famous (or infamous) Bible codes stories, the letters and words of the Hebrew language hide a story hidden beyond the first layer of perception available to us, the other mortals. But even if we set aside the element of exoticism that is not that striking for the Israeli or Hebrew knowledgeable viewer we are still left with the exquisite acting of the two lead characters (Shlomo Bar-Aba and Lior Ashkenazi), with strong supporting roles from Aliza Rosen and Micah Lewensohn, and with a mix of styles which is sometimes daring like the description of the career of the son using techniques of ‘professional’ publicity juxtaposed to the restrained way of presenting the work of the father in the style of commentaries on text. It is in the conflict between the world of ideas and the material world, in the lack of acceptance and integration of the character of the father with the universe dominated by the obsession of the security, showing respect not for the essence but to the superficial ceremonies, it is here that lies much of the ideology that motivates the story in the film.

 

(video source UKJewishFilmFestival)

 

Yet at the end I also felt a feeling of dis-satisfaction. Part resulted maybe not directly from the film itself but my own experience of living in Israel, where religious studies are not and exotic element but one of the key pillars at the foundation of the social and cultural life. There is much to be told about this world which is full of wonders and miracles but also of cheating and demagogy. Cedar’s film left me with the feeling that while trying to approach the problematic aspects of this field of life, refused to take any position or insert a critical comment beyond the sin face. Then the openness and the life-like ambiguity which in many other films works wonderfully is taken here in my opinion one or several steps too far. We never know whether the research of the father had any real value, we are left in the dark with the roots of the conflict between the father and the head of the prize Israel jury, and a character like the wife and mother could have been better developed. The strong story of the relation between the son and the father and the son’s sacrifice which here goes in different direction than usual remains suspended. ‘Footnote’ looks well polished but unfinished.