MOUNTAIN, drama, not rated, in Hebrew with subtitles, Center for Contemporary Arts, 3 chiles
Mountain is a film of convincing reality with an almost surreal twist. Tzvia (Shani Klein) lives with her family adjacent to the Jewish cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. During the day, her husband, Reuven (Avshalom Pollak), and four children are away, and Tzvia is alone at home with her stifling chores. The problem of her unfulfilled life is real. Reuven, a busy and preoccupied yeshiva teacher, nicely engages with his brood, especially with the oldest daughter, who is seven, but he mostly takes Tzvia for granted.
Tzvia may be outwardly devout, but she has the classic problem of the modern housewife: She feels isolated and bored. Occasionally, she reads poetry — she owns at least one book of poems. One night, after she has put the children to sleep, she walks through the cemetery grounds and encounters a disturbing situation. This is one of several nightly visits to the cemetery. The kind of escape writer/director Yaelle Kayam gives Tzvia feels constructed and only circularly points back to the question of her boredom. Small children sometimes wake up unexpectedly during the night, and it is not particularly believable that Tzvia would risk being away then. There is something Buñuel-like in her escape, along with an edge of brutality.
Tzvia’s emotions are understandable — she gets angry when her daughter refuses to help with chores, and she feels humiliated because her husband is unreachable. There’s real insight into family life here. It is fitting that Tzvia lives near a cemetery; without the relief of a professional or community life, a person may well feel like her soul is getting buried.
Tzvia finds some solace when she talks with the cemetery’s Palestinian caretaker Abed (Haitham Ibrahem Omari). When she relates to Reuven a brief conversation she had with Abed, he wonders if he should report the exchange, which he considers a transgression, to the cemetery owner. Tzvia quickly downplays the matter. Once, a Korean translator comes with a bouquet of flowers for a poet buried in the cemetery. This is the same poet whom Tzvia occasionally reads, and she asks the translator to recite the poem in Korean, so that she can hear how it sounds. For a moment, the beauty of poetry transcends language, and the sun shines brightly even on the cemetery. — Priyanka Kumar
Days of the dead: Shani Klein, far left, and Avshalom Pollak, far right