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To be perfectly honest, I found it more than slightly perplexing that
an Israeli film, in Hebrew, is titled in the IMDb in its French title
(in Hebrew, it's titled "Or", a semi-common name meaning "light). The
film received impressive accolades at Cannes festival which may explain
why France is a major market for this film.
"Or" (Dana Ivgy in a mesmerizing performance) is a teenager that spends the better part of her days on taking care of her mother, Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz in an equally gut wrenching performance). Ruthie is a recovering (with varying levels of success) drug addict and barely adequate to take care of herself, let alone, support a family. That task is entirely in Or's responsibility and her odd jobs interfere with her educational agenda (which will turn out to be the least of her worries).
What Or is deprived in parenting, she compensates by casual flings with boys who, more often than not, exploit her good nature and a need to be loved for, well, you all know what men want.
Surprisingly enough, despite the harshness of Or's existence, she is a jubilant girl with a very strong bond with her mother and even manages to conduct a border line Friendship/Romance with a pensive classmate, Ido (Nesher Cohen).
Unfortunately (read: inevitably), old demons from the past threaten to shatter the already fragile family and when dubious character's appear on Or and her mother's dilapidating apartment, aided with the outright disapproval of Ido's family to his relationship with Or, the harsh existence calls for cutting corners solutions with devastating effects (which I can't reveal).
This movie is a minimalist movie with no camera movements, no voice over and no music of any kind. I believe it was meant to intensify the experience as opposed to refining it. If that was the objective of the director, it was accomplished fully largely to its raw direction and impressive acting. An objective that was compromised (or maybe unjustly low-prioritized) was depicting a subtle portrait of Or.
Subtlety is very rare commodity in this film. Extensive nudity, graphic sex scenes and other scenes that don't leave anything for imagination turn the already hard to absorb feature into a film that is profoundly gut wrenching but emotionally too disturbing to be enjoyed.
I should note, in the name of objectivity, that the extremely explicit nature of this film (a disturbing trait many Israeli films still hone) might not deter people with a less conservative standpoint than my own but even those of you who are less troubled by nudity, sex and blunt content in general, should expect a very difficult film to watch and for the privilege of a film pondered on long after the screening ends, one must prepare to pay for with a very unnerving viewing.
8 out of 10 in my FilmOmeter.
Most of the other comments here about this movie are correct, but they
dance around the central issue, I think. But first . . .
First: the acting here is superb. I had to remind myself I wasn't watching a documentary.
Second: the cinematography is unusual and highly effective. It's a certain style that other directors have used (some Japanese guy, for example, whose name escapes me.) Someone here describes it as minimalist, and maybe it is, but it has the effect of putting you in the scene as a sort of innocent bystander. For example, the camera does not always follow the action; rather, it is stationary and the characters pass back and forth. Sometimes they drift off screen, or almost off screen, right in the middle of a scene. In this particular case, it works to great effect. It's as if you're sitting on the couch, ignored, slightly embarrassed, taking it all in.
OK, now for the story. This is a story about sex, women, and men, in its most elemental form. Sex for money, or barter, whatever. Sex for cheap thrills. But mostly, this is about the way that men use women, and IN PARTICULAR how Israeli men relate to women. That's the crux of it, because this film was not shot in Argentina, or Kenya, or Thailand, but in the (so-called) Holy Land. 50 years after the establishment of the state of Israel, once referred to as the Moral Vacation Spot of the World, we see a society which is blatantly exploitive of women. No moral compass here. We get the landlord who cops a feel for the rent. A soldier on leave from the West Bank who demands a blow job. Drunks in the street humping an aging whore. An ex husband who couldn't care less that his former wife walks the streets. This is gritty stuff to see in the land of Jesus & Co.
So, not a fun movie -- leaves you feeling like you just took a nap on the floor of a Greyhound terminal -- but if you're up for well done realism, this is for you.
P.S. Lots of nudity, and sex, but don't expect to get turned on; it's more like watching an xxx flick from inside the porn star's head.
P.P.S. (Written much later) If you're up for another interesting look at Israeli sexuality, there's a documentary called (I think) The First Zionist Bunny. It's about how Playboy selected a host for their cable channel in Israel. Very interesting flick.
Ors mother is a recovering drug user and whore. Or takes care of
herself and her mother, goes to school, washes dishes at a restaurant,
recycles. Or is obsessed with cleaning. Ors mother is not good at
cleaning. In fact Or worked out a house cleaning job for her mother but
her mother can't hack it and would rather sneak out to work the
streets. Eventually johns from the past even visit Ors mother at home.
Or deals with her mothers condition at first optimistically, helping
her out of her need for self deprivation, but after a while, or can't
take it and stops going to school, meets more and more boys who take
advantage of her inability to say no, denys the one kid who might have
genuinely like her, until finally she too falls into a self destructive
This is an amazing film about the destructive life of a mother and her daughter who tries to help her but in the end cannot bare the weight of such burdensome obligations. Its hopeless and grim. All the technical aspects compliment the mood of the film. The camera takes an objective view by being completely still and having actions happen even if on the boarder of the frame. The naturalistic sound, with no music, increases a kind of uneasiness in the viewer. Furthermore, the long silences, scenes with just a few words and gestures, natural lighting, sometimes under lit, great spaces and scenery surrounding characters on screen work in a way to create a very unique world with a dense psychological complexity. We are simply viewing this world from the window director Keren Yadaya has given us.
When this film ended I was left feeling that people are parts of whole systems working continuously but constantly wearing down as time goes on. Where everything is connected, the newer and less worn parts work more efficiently for a short time, taking the work load of those in its proximity. But in the end, every part is eventually going to be overworked, and will become faulty.
Yet, despite it's rather dark message this film, and others like it, (mostly, I'm thinking Requiem for a Dream) are not meant to depress people or lead to thoughts of suicide in the dark existence we inhabit. Not at all. Instead, I think films like this are meant to show people how bad things can get, they objectively separate us as viewers from worlds where real people like the ones portrayed might exist, and as viewers we are suppose to more consciously understand the complexity of life and the characters in it. So this being the case, films like these, are odes to life, messages to insight in us living for goodness, away from darkness which the films most immediate layers transmit.
This film is not entertainment, it is art at its highest form. I'm glad I have discovered (thanks to a friend) the work of Keren Yedaya. Its artists like this who constantly reform cinema as not just mindless entertainment but truly as a powerful medium for commenting and critiquing the world around us. For that, an 8 out of 10.
Get ready for a raw, gritty look at prostitution and how some end up there. While the plot is uncomplicated, the film is unrelenting -- you won't crack so much as a smile; no humor whatsoever here. The story of a prostitute and her teenage daughter is powerfully told. The daughter, predictably, runs the household and has to mother the hopelessly irresponsible mother. They barely get by with the help of the neighbors, who are also the owners of a diner where the daughter works part-time. It's a slice-of-life drama that, while it takes place in Israel, could easily take place anywhere where low expectations meet low self-esteem. Be warned: It doesn't leave you upon leaving the theater.
A story about people, women, which strikes at the heart. A tale which explores the life of a prostitute, and her daughter destined to follow along her path. A camera which skirts around the bodies of the characters. A vision that is intimate, yet distant, non-judgmental. The wasting away of the female flesh, and the reflection of the daughter in the mother, the mother in the daughter. How hopes and dreams begin to whither in the face of circumstance, and how difficult day to day life can be. A beautiful film which elegantly avoid the banalities and triteness of any political statement, yet explores a subject which is inherently political. A must-see if nothing more than for the skillful and intelligent camera.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just saw this movie and I was very moved by it. Like most foreign films, it will require the viewer to work a little bit, and be patient as the story develops, but you won't have to work at caring about the title character, Or. She's a normal girl mostly raising herself in a tiny apartment with a mother who would rather sell her body than get up in the morning to go to a normal job, (which her daughter has to find for her). But the filmmaker makes you care, somehow, even about the mother. Maybe it's because these are real characters, not caricatures, and there isn't a hip soundtrack for the audience to numb itself to half the time. In fact, there is absolutely no music in the film, that is until the final, fateful shot. You will ask yourself during the movie why a beautiful, bright girl with enormous potential would follow her mother into a thankless life of prostitution, but by the end of the film you will begin to understand that it is her perception of her potential that leads her to this end, and it will make you think. Find this movie, and encourage others to discover it's importance. You won't be disappointed.
Or adeptly portrays the subjugation of both men and women to a misogynist culture, exposing the entrapment of violation and the many marks it leaves on women's bodies, the compulsion to move toward further violence, and men's complicity in this degradation of the body -- their own and women's. An heir to the works of important feminist thinkers (Andrea Dworkin, Susan Griffin, Adrienne Rich), this film pulls the viewer gently into an unabsorbable tirade and presents the question of the futility of human relations. Suffocating and bleak, set against an otherwise fairly banal landscape (and herein lies its strength), it doesn't shirk from exposing the underlay of the socially sanctioned pathology of male sexuality. In its insistent questioning, the film takes the viewer deep into the unresolvable, avoiding easy answers. The problem presented is devastating and Yedaya commits the viewer to sitting with their own unease, to touch, as it were, the very body of the film and face their own complicity in this unpardonable scheme.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a moralizing film in the best meaning of the word. It's about
the girl, who lives with her prostitute mother. The daughter in many
ways are her mother's mother, all the time telling her what to do or
forbidding her from doing certain things.
Everything is in vane. Then the daughter makes a sacrifice to save the mother but doesn't succeed. Now both of them are condemned instead.
Keren Yedaya is a great director. The acting is brilliant here, and the things Yedaya tries to say are obvious, but doesn't underestimate the intelligence of the audience. This is a dark movie, very dark, but it doesn't push you away. Great work!
There is a general impression in the minds of cinema goers that films about the taboo topic of prostitution are either too dark or to light. Most of the dark films about prostitution are known to have a sort of documentary touch to them whereas light films about prostitution invariably carry the hackneyed "all prostitutes are beautiful and they have a heart of gold" kind of message.For example: Irma La Douce directed by Billy Wilder and Never on Sunday directed by Jules Dassin. It is not so often that a different kind of film is made which can do justice to the depiction of this disturbing theme.Most of the films about prostitution need to have all the right ingredients in order to carry the proper message to viewers.This film by Keren Yedaya called "Or" is a unique film in the history of Israelian cinema.It is for the first time that the absurdist theme of prostitution has been boldly shown especially in the context of evils which disturb the human mind,body and soul.The film is a success as it depicts that the act of prostitution is a modern day evil which is closely associated with other roguish facets of modern age such as crime and drugs.Or can also be read as a sad tale of an irresponsible mother who is unable to take proper care of her daughter.The bizarre thing about this film is that towards its end the evil practice of prostitution is accepted by a person who was single handedly waging a fierce as well as a heroic battle against it.This is a hint to state that there is no possible end to the vicious circle of evil as circumstances even force a strong willed person to be a part of it.
Great movie. Shows the maturity of Israeli cinema. If you're looking for a happy ending or Hollywood romance, don't bother watching this film. If you are looking for something deeper than that, you'll be fascinated throughout the movie. It's difficult to watch, but it's not difficult to follow. The director keeps your attention throughout the film. Veteran Israeli actor Ivgy's daughter is amazing in the role of Or, the daughter of a prostitute, played by the superb Ronit Alqabetz. Look out for Alqabetz in other great Israeli movies, like Late Marriage ("Mariage Tardif" in French). This is stark realism at its best. The moral message is powerful, but nuanced. Ruthie (the mother) comes across very much as much a victim of her own choices.
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