Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik are father and son as well as rival professors in Talmudic Studies. When both men learn that Eliezer will be lauded for his work, their complicated relationship reaches a new peak.
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The story of a great rivalry between a father and son, both eccentric professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The son has an addictive dependency on the embrace and accolades that the establishment provides, while his father is a stubborn purist with a fear and profound revulsion for what the establishment stands for, yet beneath his contempt lies a desperate thirst for some kind of recognition. The Israel Prize, Israel's most prestigious national award, is the jewel that brings these two to a final, bitter confrontation. Written by
Greetings again from the darkness. In the United States, we typically get limited access to the films of Israel. In recent years, there have been two that I like very much: The Band's Visit, and Waltz for Bashir. Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, Footnote was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award. It's a very creative and insightful story utilizing slight comedic elements to show the destructive forces of petty professional jealousy within a family.
Most parents wish for true happiness for their children. If the professional success of their offspring far exceeds their own ... it is a reason to swell with parental pride. But what happens when father and son choose similar paths? What happens when animosity builds as the father's life work (30 years of research) is deemed unnecessary and irrelevant? What happens when the son becomes publicly revered and adored for his populist writing? Well, in the case of father Eliezer (Shlomo Bar-Aba) and son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi), we get strained relations and a thesis on the pitfalls of pride and ego.
All of that is sufficiently fascinating for a story, but here we get an even more severe test of human nature. The father is erroneously informed that he has won the prestigious Israel Award, providing vindication and meaning to his work and well, his being. See, the award was supposed to go to the other Professor Shkolnik ... yes, his son. This much is shown in the trailer, but the true guts of this story is what happens after this mistake.
There are a few tremendous scenes in the film, but two really jumped out for me. In an early scene, the son is receiving yet another reward and he is attempting to provide some credit for his father's inspiration. However, the words seem to add credence to the irrelevancy instead. The best part? The camera never leaves the face of the father and he sits quietly listening in immeasurable pain. The other scene takes place in a beyond cramped meeting room for the Award committee to discuss the mistake with Uriel. The manner it is filmed and the choreography more than make up for the fact that the group of brilliant people never thought to find a more suitable meeting place.
The score of the film is one that I would appreciate more without having the film playing. The music is wonderful, but often distracting to the moment. It is interesting to note how it changes along with the posture and walking pace of Eliezer after he is informed of his award. One need not be an academic researcher or writer to understand the damaged relationship between father and son ... and how it has impacted wives, mothers and sons. That's a story that is painful in any language.
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