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BERLINALE 2013 Panorama Special/Israel/Germany

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Youth: child’s play

by Bénédicte Prot

11/02/2013 - Tom Shoval’s film tells how two brothers believe that, from their little cellar and in 24 hours, they can influence a world that turns them into men too soon

Youth: child’s play

Youth [+see also:
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is an action movie in which nothing happens but in which everything ends up shattered, a family tragedy both modest and immense. The story begins with the image of a young Israeli, seen from behind, who is looking through the fence around a school. On the other side of this fence is an “Other”, different from what we expected, an "Other" whom he envies, a life that he covets: the Israeli rift that Tom Shoval shows here is that which separates the rich, the very rich, who live in big fenced houses, and families like that of Shaul (Eitan Cunio), who fill the fridge with difficulty and struggle to pay the rent.

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While the boy’s mother tries desperately to combine several pitiful little jobs, and while his brother Yaki (David Cunio) does his military service, the father has stopped trying to fight. He contents himself with sitting around and leaves the apartment from which the family will soon be evicted as often as he can. As Shaun is an usher in a cinema, he can still get himself a ticket for a movie and some popcorn, but the usual outings of this down-trodden man mostly consist of smoking on the landing of the apartment block in which they live, the same cigarettes his wife wants him to give up.

So Shaun waits at the exit from the school and starts following Dafna, taking photos which he sends from his phone. We don't understand what he is up to until Yaki comes home for the weekend, carrying the machine-gun that makes him a man. They have prepared everything; they have seen American movies; they know what to do. It shouldn't be complicated for two brothers to kidnap a teenager: they have bandages to cover her eyes and a mattress for the cellar where she will be kept while they wait for the 152,000 dollars they have demanded. A simple phone call and everything will be settled. The problem is that Dafna’s parents observe the Shabbat.

It is not surprising that even their terrified victim ends up thinking of them as idiots and is not scared of grabbing the opportunity to look at their unmasked faces, nor is it surprising that their attempt is totally in vain – Shaun’s gesture intended to make Dafna’s i-pod disappear in an attempt to erase evidence says a great deal.

As Shoval points out, Yaki and Shaun should not be judged. If they confuse a children’s game with a childlike enterprise, it is because they live in a society where guns are placed in the hands of impetuous boys – the same impetuousness that is present in all youngsters –, where they are given the impression that they can have a serious influence on the world. Yet outside their grey cellar, the Shabbat goes on and life follows its course, and nothing they try to do can efface the tragedy they want to avert. 

(Translated from French)

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