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Itay Tiran (Photo: International Film Circuit)

Written & Directed by
Udi Aloni, based on his book Gilgul Mechilot
Produced by
David Silber, Lemore Syvan & Aloni
Released by
International Film Circuit
In English, Hebrew & Arabic with English subtitles  
USA/Israel. 97 min. Not Rated
With Itay Tiran, Clara Khoury, Moni Moshonov, Makram Khoury, Michael Sarne & Tamara Mansour

Forgiveness builds on an almost macabre coincidence: that the site of one of the most notorious actions by a Jewish militia during the 1948 waróthe bloody attack on the Palestinian civilians of the village Deir Yassinólater became the location for a mental asylum, whose first patients were traumatized Holocaust survivors.

In this time-tripping phantasmagoria of flashbacks, nightmares, and fantasy, above and below ground, the hospital is now treating a catatonic, shell-shocked Israeli-American soldier David Adler (Itay Tiran, also a soldier in Beaufort) and a wizened fellow patient (an entrancing Moni Moshonov), who seems out of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story. Whether ranting as the gravedigger in Hamlet or the blind Tiresias from Oedipus Rex, the elderly lunatic also becomes an archeologist leading other patients to uncover the evidence of the Palestinian village, then a guide to the underworld like the ferryman Charon, and a storyteller recounting the Hassidic legend that the souls of righteous Jews who died in the Holocaust will travel underground to the Mount of Olives when the Messiah comes. He is finally revealed as an Auschwitz survivor, like Davidís father, who accuses the older man of being a Muselmann, the term Germans used to mock despairing camp inmates lying prostrate, like Muslims at prayer.

Most of the film flashes back to how David ended up in this asylum, and around the effort to cure him through a memory-killing psychotropic drug. He recalls his restless life in New York, where his Zionism was mostly a rebellion against his past ignoring father. After getting a large Star of Redemption tattoo over his heart, he enlists in the Israeli army, where the shoot-first rules of engagement at checkpoints precipitates a tragedy that continues to haunt him, even when he returns to New York to a passionate relationship with a beautiful Palestinian, Lila (Clara Khoury of The Syrian Bride.) Her small daughter is played by the same young girl who also portrays Palestinian children throughout Davidís nightmares.

Though Davidís war service and New York experiences are effectively grounded in the credible use of the locales, his asylum treatment and interactions become more and more absurd as he has a fevered reaction to the experimental medicine and writer/director Udi Aloni piles on the symbolism higher and higher. While Amos Gitaiís Disengagement also resorts to magic realism and coincidental romantic and family relationships, Aloni shifts awkwardly to the style of the Oscar-winning satirical musical short West Bank Story. As entertaining as the choreography is for the high-on-ecstasy club scenes from Jerusalem to Brooklyn, the dancing soldiers and mental patients are a reminder of why the musical version of Philippe de Brocaís King of Hearts didnít last too long on Broadway. Nora Lee Mandel
September 12, 2008



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