Two destinies intersect in Self Made
by Nicolas Raffin
- Israeli director Shira Geffen is back with a new film that is both funny and touching
The second feature by Shira Geffen, Self Made, presented at the Cannes International Critics’ Week this year, most recently opened the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, which came to a close on Sunday. Geffen, the winner of the Caméra d'Or at Cannes in 2007 for Jellyfish [+see also:
film profile], returns with a moving and eclectic film that touches on themes as diverse as war, identity and the art world. Sarah Adler, who played the lead role in her first film, this time plays Michal, an Israeli artist living in Jerusalem. She plays alongside newcomer Samira Saraya, who delivers an impressive performance in the role of Nadine, a Palestinian employee in an Israeli furniture factory.
Michal, renowned for her highly provocative works, is about to present her latest at the Venice Biennale. She has a difficult relationship with her husband, particularly due to his very strong opinions. One night her bed collapses, and as a result, Michal suffers complete memory loss. For her part, Nadine is fired because of a screw – an object that plays an important role in the film, and also refers to its original title, Boreg. Everything we learn about Michal is dictated by the succession of visits she receives: she is a feminist, influential and provocative. Conversely, Nadine’s life and ambitions are more discreet. Her family constantly denigrates her and considers her stupid, but paradoxically, she gradually opens up throughout the film, and the viewer ends up getting to know her more intimately than Michal. The film is built around these two stories, which gradually merge to form one during a case of mistaken identity at a checkpoint, and then separate only to meet again at the end of the movie.
Self Made, for which Geffen also wrote the screenplay, sits on the boundary between reality and imagination. Identities blur, blend and merge. Absurdity and exaggeration are seized and fully mastered, as much from a screenwriting perspective as from a visual point of view, thanks to the excellent cinematography of Ziv Berkovic. Geffen manages to subtly address several sensitive issues: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the very subjective question of identity, as well as the art world, where everything seems to focus on the work at the expense of the artist him or herself.
In one of the most representative scenes of the film, a cook plays the violin to crabs to gain their trust. This scene, which is initially highly amusing, becomes emotional as the notes of the violin hang in the air. The entire film continues in the same vein, boasting a remarkable sensitivity whilst remaining surprisingly light and creative.
Self Made was supported by the Israel Film Fund.
(Translated from French)