Driver: Tales that certainly won't put you to sleep
by Gonzalo Suárez
- The Tallinn Black Nights Festival Debut Film Competition opens with the world premiere of Israeli director Yehonatan Indursky's debut feature film
The prestigious Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival First Features Competition opened on Thursday 23 November with the very first public screening of Driver [+see also:
film profile], the debut fiction film by Yehonatan Indursky. The Israeli director concluded his film and television studies with a short film of the same name, presented in 2011 at Jerusalem Film Festival, which subsequently voted him best director in 2015 for another one of his short films, The Cantor and The Sea. He then directed the documentary Ponevez Time (2012) before winning numerous awards with the TV series Shtisel in 2015. Similarly to his previous film, his debut feature was inspired by an environment he knows first-hand.
The plot of Driver takes place in Bnei Brak, the city where the director studied as a child, an important centre of Judaism. The "driver" in the title is Nahman Ruzumni (Moshe Folkenflick), a father who earns his living by going begging at night in the neighbourhood of some of the wealthiest members of the community, in order to appeal to their pity and their wallets with his stories. The film's incipit is powerful. We watch as Ruzumni teaches one of his clients (since they give him a commission on what they earn) how to skilfully play his cards as a beggar and make the most of a sad story. The director is somewhat restrained, however, following the promises of the first scene. The initial mise-en-abyme (where the actor plays a character who tells a story invented from scratch, or a character does the same thing, etc.) subtly yet suddenly brings us to a dead end: that of the final story Ruzumni is unable to tell. The other great subject, religion, inseparable from social life in this city, becomes the heart of the story that plays out between Ruzumni and his daughter (Manuel Elkaslassy) rather than the subject of any sort of criticism. The scenes showing poker played at bar or that of the Shiv'ahin add humour and a certain lightness to the film, but also serve to support its central point.
The mise-en-scene is incredibly realistic and precise. This is mainly due to an austere yet not obscure photography style, and a camera that gets as close as possible to the characters, letting the emotional weight of the film’s story fall on their faces and shoulders. Indursky, also the author of the screenplay, avoids sudden stops and starts. Some of his intuitions are elegant (the accordion, the drinks), others more obvious (the Ferris wheel, the changing weather), but whatever it may be, it carries us along with the story, without haste but without lingering, towards a relatively predictable outcome to which you could apply a sentence that Borges once attributed to his own father: "It’s the children who educate parents, not the other way around".
(Translated from Spanish)
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