Tale of one of Is­rael’s sad­dest sto­ries is somber

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - MOVIES - By Ken­neth Tu­ran

For those who care about the prospects for peace in the Middle East and the fate of a sec­u­lar Is­rael, the as­sas­si­na­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin by the re­li­giously ob­ser­vant Yi­gal Amir is the sad­dest story ever told, a per­pet­ual night­mare from which there may be no awak­en­ing.

Now, more than 20 years af­ter that act, Amos Gi­tai, one of Is­rael’s most prom­i­nent film­mak­ers, has taken on that mur­der in the somber, com­pelling “Rabin, The Last Day,” an un­usual work that mixes gen­res to at times awk­ward but al­ways pow­er­ful ef­fect.

De­spite its ti­tle, Gi­tai’s film deals not only with the events of Nov. 4, 1995, but with what hap­pened in the coun­try in the days lead­ing up to it as well as the of­fi­cial govern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the death that fol­lowed.

“The Last Day” in­cludes talk­ing-head in­ter­views with for­mer Pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres and Rabin’s widow, Leah, as well as a cer­tain amount of doc­u­men­tary footage, largely of the demon­stra­tions that pre­ceded Rabin’s death. But most of it con­sists of re-en­act­ments and staged scenes, with the lack of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of par­tic­i­pants lead­ing to in­ter­mit­tent con­fu­sion.

Th­ese sit­u­a­tions, how­ever, are not made up out of whole cloth. Ac­cord­ing to Gi­tai, “Our film is com­pletely fac­tual; it is based on ex­ist­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion. For ev­ery line spo­ken in this film, we have the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments with the words as they were orig­i­nally spo­ken.”

Gi­tai, whose films in­clude “Kip­pur” and “Ka- MPAA rat­ing: Not rated Run­ning time: 2:33 Opens: Fri­day, in lim­ited re­lease dosh,” has never been the most sub­tle of di­rec­tors, and while that trait is in ev­i­dence here, the force of his di­rect­ing serves in this case to un­der­line how ter­ri­ble an event the Rabin killing was.

The most chill­ing of Gi­tai’s re-cre­ation is a scene of a group of Jews in prayer shawls plac­ing a curse called the Pulsa Dinura on Rabin with the in­tent of end­ing his life. But even less-dra­matic drama­ti­za­tions hold our in­ter­est.

The bulk of th­ese have to do with the work of the three-man Sham­gar Com­mis­sion, chaired by Supreme Court Pres­i­dent Meir Sham­gar and set up to in­ves­ti­gate the nut­sand-bolts specifics of the as­sas­si­na­tion.

Per­haps most mem­o­rable of all are the in­ter­views with the as­sas­sin Amir, ef­fec­tively played by ac­tor Yo­gev Ye­fet, a mes­sianic ex­trem­ist who tells an in­ter­view­ing po­lice of­fi­cer that “I don’t care about the law, I care about the Jews.”

Though we see the as­sas­si­na­tion it­self more than once, Gi­tai’s goal in mak­ing this film is not mere de­pic­tion. Just as the Sham­gar Com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gated the act it­self, the di­rec­tor has said he wanted to cre­ate “a kind of cin­e­matic com­mis­sion of in­quiry to in­ves­ti­gate the in­cite­ment,” the sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try that led up to the act.

In line with this, Gi­tai shows doc­u­men­tary footage of fu­ri­ous demon­stra­tions against the Oslo peace ac­cords that Rabin signed, in­clud­ing pic­tures of Rabin’s head atop an SS uni­form and crowds chant­ing “Death to Rabin” and “We’ll get rid of Rabin with blood and fire.”

Th­ese all speak to Gi­tai’s con­clu­sion that the fire of sedi­tion was alive in Is­rael, fed by rab­bis and set­tlers apoplec­tic about Rabin’s land-for-peace ideas and backed up by op­por­tunis­tic politi­cians.

Whether you agree with this con­clu­sion or not, it’s hard not to feel the shock that shook the coun­try at this mur­der, hard not to agree with Leah Rabin when she says, “It never oc­curred to me in my wildest dreams that such a thing was pos­si­ble.”


Still of Yitzhak Rabin in the movie "Rabin, the Last Day."

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