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"Promised Land" tells the story of a group of young unwitting Estonian girls smuggled through Egypt to be auctioned off as prostitutes in Israel, and of their initiation into this trade of flesh, and finally of the accidental freeing of one girl who most fight for her freedom.Written by
Director Amos Gitai said in an interview that he convinced the cast and crew to literally camp out in the desert where the opening sequences were shot. This began because he was tired of the long daily commute from the location to Tel Aviv, but he believes that the fact that most of them agreed to join him, living in tents without running water for days, added to the gritty realism of these scenes, because the actresses were just as unwashed and uncomfortable as their characters. See more »
Peace Upon You Jerusalem
Written by Arvo Part
Performed by Girls Choir See more »
My main reason for seeing 'Promised Land', the first film in Amos Gitai's "Border Trilogy", was Rosamund Pike early on in her career. She was a promising young talent at the time and has really grown into a very good and better-than-given-credit-for actress who really delivers in the right role, as can be evidenced in one of the best Best Actress performances of the decade, and one of the best performances that year, in 'Gone Girl'.
There was also intrigue as to how 'Promised Land' would deal with such a heavy, harrowing and nasty subject matter, human trafficking, something that is important to be raised awareness of and not addressed enough in visual media (film and television alike) while also being difficult to do it justice. As can be made clear from watching 'Promised Land'. Any film that takes on a subject such as human trafficking should be applauded for trying, but it is my feeling that 'Promised Land' could have dealt with it much more and handled it with more sincerity and taste. It is neither terrible or great, as a matter to me it's one of those difficult to rate and discuss films, and to be seen to see how human trafficking can be portrayed on screen and for completests of Rosamund Pike and Amos Gitai. That is if one can find it, with that it had a limited release at the time and, other than various websites having it in full, its availability is relatively obscure.
'Promised Land', starting with its strengths, does start off promisingly. It has a very evocative opening scene and some of the first half has a gritty documentary-like feel. Some of it looks good, the first half is shot pretty well, the locations are striking and atmospheric and there is some impressively rich lensing in some of the night sequences.
When it comes to the acting, which is actually not too bad at all considering what they were given, the standouts are Hanna Schygulla bringing a menacing but also comforting charisma to her role (more so than it deserved, with some really clunky dialogue that sounded made up on the spot) and Anne Parillaud, quite moving in hers. Rosamund Pike disappointingly doesn't have that much to do and the role is very limited in depth, but she nonetheless gives a conscientious and brave performance (again like Schygulla, more so than the material deserved). Some scenes are suitably harrowing.
However, 'Promised Land's' promise doesn't last very long. The first half did have its faults, with some of the pacing being dull and taking too long a time to get to the point, but the film really loses its way in the second half. The subject as has been said is unspeakably harrowing, you don't have to have gone through it yourself to know that, so a nasty approach is appropriate and necessary, but it still could have been done with more tact than this. Here the horrors were both excessive and trivialised and the treatment of the women was portrayed in a way that was self-indulgent and gratuitously salacious, done to overkill effect.
Coherence, or lack of it, is also an issue. There is not much going on plot-wise in terms of structure and some of it is aimless. The second half in particular is repetitive and figuring out what's going on beyond the endless stringing of torture (and such) scenes was near-impossible. Telling who was who was the same (the far too dark lighting does not help), with the film having characters that despite the actors' best efforts have no development to them whatsoever. The dialogue is continually clunky and says nothing illuminating about this subject other than what we already know, and Gitai's direction is heavy-handed. Emotional impact is non-existent, the film is just far too distasteful to evoke any kind of empathy and the characters are too flimsily developed to make one care for them properly. Then there's the all too convenient Deux Ex Machina conclusion, which was too much of a cop-out.
Overall, started off with a lot of promise but loses its way drastically in particularly the second half. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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