Review: The End of Love
- VENICE 2019: Keren Ben Rafael signs a conceptual and audacious film around Skype communication and a frustrated love story between Judith Chemla and Arieh Worthalter
Parents in bed making each other feel good when a baby wakes up and interrupts them with its cries. A classic scene from the life of a young couple? Indeed, but Israeli filmmaker Keren Ben Rafael gives this episode — which opens The End of Love [+see also:
film profile], her second feature film (after Virgins [+see also:
film profile] which one the Best Actress award last year in Tribeca), unveiled in the Biennale College Cinema of the 76 Venice International Film Festival — a completely original angle where the two lovers reveal themselves to be in two different countries, stimulating each other via Skype.
“I will call every day and it will be as if I’ve never left. In the morning, I will wake up with you.“ Yuval (Belgian actor Arieh Worthalter) has returned to Israel, in Tel Aviv, for two weeks because he has to renew his Visa in order to live in France with Julie (Judith Chemla) and their son Lenny, who isn’t yet one-year-old. But the administrative procedures turn out to be more complicated than planned and he will have to wait for a month at least. Audio and visual exchanges via a Skype are therefore the only way to maintain the connection in the meantime, and they multiply. Lighthearted at first (a guitar serenade, little lovers games and pretend jealousy, jokes and laughter, etc.), then a little more tense (reproaches around questions of education, Julie’s exhaustion as she is taking care of the child all the while pursuing her career and has little time for her own relaxation), Closed ones with their own input, regularly entry into the visual field at the camera (Yuval’s Israeli family and friends, Julie's mother – played by Noémie Lvovsky — Lenny's babysitter, etc.) As time goes on, isolation grows within the couple, incomprehension sets in, communication thins out, arguments get bigger and heavier questions begin to emerge: does Yuval really want to live in France ( where his career as a photographer does not seem to have a future) and say goodbye to his party lifestyle? ("You don't want to hear him say daddy? That doesn't interest you? One day, he will call you sir and you won’t be happy.”) Will love survive geographic distance?
Produced with the budget limited to #150,000, as dictated by the rules of theBiennale College Cinema, The End of Love shows are a lot of inventiveness ( its script is written by the director together with Élise Benroubi) in the way it keeps hold of its audacious concept ( Skype calls only), which should have quite easily crashed. Offering its two lead actors delicate roles wish they play with talent and charisma, and building on small variations that are both visual (though they inevitably have a slightly repetitive quality) and narrative, the feature reveals itself to be a very interesting experience in staging which addresses, under its minimalist guise, many topics of debate related to modernity (the ease of communication via technologies and their limits, cultural differences, bilingualism, responsibility and decisions regarding the education of a child, professional life and private life). But also, of course, love which acts as a sort of echo chamber for all the problems of presence and distance.
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