Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Holy Land|
Actors: Oren Rehany, Tchelet Semel, Saul Stein, Albert Iluz, Aryeh Moskona
Director: Eitan Gorlin
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Summary: award-winning brilliant first film by Eitan Gorlin
gaetano catelli | soho, nyc | 08/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Holy land" is a coming of age story. but the protagonist, Mendy, is not just any run-of-the-mill naif. he is a rabbinical student in Tel Aviv, and the scion of a line of ultra-orthodox rabbis. his family is wonderfully wholesome, while Mendy is unbearably horny. the head rabbi at his yeshiva, noting Mendy's inability to concentrate on his studies, cites a passage in the Talmud (while denying that he is advising it) that states that a young man who visits a professional female companion will come away more focused on his religious studies.
Mendy does not need to have his arm twisted. soon he finds a strip joint, goes in, meets the charming and beautiful Sasha, and falls in love with her. through Sasha he meets Mike, a larger than life character who owns a bar in Jerusalem where stock Arab and Jewish characters seamlessly mix in a sort of bizarre version of "Cheers".
it is a timeless story about the conflict in the soul of every young adult (who has a pulse) between the idealistic pull from above to transcend our human nature, and the tug from below to experience the pleasures of the flesh precisely at that point in life when we are most able to enjoy them. having been raised as an ultra-orthodox Jew, Mendy has grown up in a culture second to none in its seriousness about avoiding the distractions of the secular world. yet, as an intelligent and sensitive young man, Mendy can't help but be elated by seeing the maps in an atlas, to give just one example of how sheltered his life had been before then.
Oren Rehany deserves an Oscar for his performance as Mendy. he wordlessly conveys more emotion with the expressions on his face than most actors can deliver in a full blown soliloquy. Tchelet Semel, as Sasha, is not just "the girl". she's a fully developed character, with youth, beauty, and a mother back in Russia who needs money to pay for heat in the winter.
and, all of this takes place against the backdrop of Jerusalem -- site of the world's longest running battle for the soul of man. so, what's the catch? the catch is that you can't dramatize the conflict between the sacred and the profane if you leave out the profane. and, if you love Israel, you may feel uncomfortable with a film that spends so much time on the dark side of life there, especially the IDF's routine treatment of Palestinians. (who wouldn't be uncomfortable seeing the warts of one's beloved displayed on the big screen?) but, if you can get beyond that, this movie is well worth seeing.
Interesting plot....upsetting, predictable ending....
D. Moland | Jaffa, Israel | 10/29/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoyed this little indie film. I thought it was well acted, and had an interesting plot. The first half of the movie is definitely better than the second half. The ending was predictable and disappointing. But overall, give this movie a try."
Israeli background added interest to a rather silly story
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 10/22/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This small independent 2001 film is set in Israel in the year 2000 (before things really got bad). It's a sort-of romance about a shy rabbinical student who falls in love with a young Russian prostitute. It's a silly story but the Israeli background adds interest and perspective as the audience gets to see a view of the Holy Land which is, in reality, it's underbelly. There's a strip club in Tel Aviv where the young woman works and is exploited by her employers. There's a bar in Tel Aviv owned by a drunken American ex-patriot where Arabs, Jews and unsavory individuals from around the world congregate. There's a hint of illegal smuggling and a lot of partying including drugs and alcohol. And, generally, the story is lightweight until the conclusion, which made me think that the author had written himself into a corner and didn't know how to get out.
I rather enjoyed the concept and the scenery. Acting was good and the young actress was pretty and some of the explicit scenes were fun to watch. But even though the film was only 98 minutes long, I found myself bored and wishing it would hurry up. Even though there was a hint of intrigue and of politics, it was only for background. And, unfortunately, the romantic relationship never really rang true. And so I can only give "The Holy Land" a very lukewarm recommendation.
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 08/19/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The premise of this film actually had some promise. It features a rather unconventional quasi-love story and has the great added bonus of taking the viewer to parts of Israel that the average tourist doesn't even know about, like the seedy nightclubs and strip joints, the section of the Muslim Quarter known for being a Hamas area, and the places where the smuggling is taking place. The story starts out interestingly enough, when 20 year old Mendy is advised in a roundabout by one of his yeshiva teachers to go to a place where no one knows him and visit a harlot to get it all out of his system, and then he'll once more be able to concentrate on holiness. Little does the teacher know that Mendy grows fond of the life he begins making for himself in the outside world, as he works at Mike's Place, a bar where people from all walks of life congregate, and falls in love (or at least lust) with Sasha, a beautiful young prostitute who was brought from Russia to Israel via the booming white slave trade. While working at Mike's Place he also comes to meet a number of other colorful characters, such as the Messianic settler dubbed The Exterminator and Razi, an Arab involved in smuggling.
However, the film seemed to be really uneven and slow-paced in many sections, and with a paper-thin plot. I didn't really sense just what the actual plot was supposed to be. What was supposed to be the conflict or the resolution? Where was the narrative? It was like a lot happened but none of it really contributed much to an actual structured plot. None of the characters seemed particularly likeable or sympathetic either, making it harder to get fully drawn into the story and to deeply care about them. I also didn't get much of a sense of character growth or development apart from Sasha's; her character was undoubtably the one with the most depth and transcendence of a stereotype. It would have helped had Mendy been given a bit more of a backstory. When, for example, did he start drifting away from his Orthodox lifestyle? What made him lose his concentration on studying in the yeshiva? And just what part of the Orthodox world are he and his family supposed to be from? Are they ba'alei teshuvah, Hassidic, Hareidi, right-wing Orthodox, Mitnagdim, Litvaks, what? Identifying their exact religious background might have helped a bit in getting to understand more about where his character was coming from. The scenes depicting his home life also seemed a bit shallow and unbelievable, like the lack of emotional warmth and closeness that these families are known for, and the atrocious sheitl (wig) his mother had on. They didn't seem like one of the more extreme groups in the Hareidi/Hassidic world, so it would have made more sense had she been wearing the type of sheitl most women do today, the type that's indistinguishable from one's own hair. The audio commentary was somewhat informative, but didn't answer a lot of the questions I had after watching it. I wish some of the extras had been some of the Q&A sessions the director and cast had when they were touring the film, since from their descriptions, they sounded really interesting. The other extras are trailers, a brief interview with director Eitan Gorlin, the opening night party, and a photo album narrated by Mr. Gorlin.
Overall, the movie has enough surface interest (primarily the beautiful shots of these little-seen places in Israel), but the intentions of the director, however noble, just seemed to fall flat. The narrative arc never really picks up, and there's no real resolution of any conflict, no sense of character growth. I agree that the drastic ending may have been put in there because there seemed like no other way to conclude this neverending story in search of itself. It's a shame, since this story really did start out with promise and potential."