Hearat Shulayim (Footnote)
Summer 2012 Features series
Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 8:00pm
Directed by Joseph Cedar
Screenplay by Joseph Cedar
Starring Aliza Rosen, Lior Ashkenazi, and Shlomo Bar-Aba
Rated PG ·
Hearat Shulayim (Footnote)
This witty and arresting feature from Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar (Beaufort) boasts a rare combination. It is at once intellectually stimulating, formally daring, emotionally devastating and dryly humorous.
Footnote’s premise is grounded in a potent archetypal conflict, set in a specific, fascinating milieu. The ornery Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar Aba, beloved comedic star of Israeli stage and television) and his ambitious, academically bearded son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi, Late Marriage) are rival professors in the Talmudic Studies department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The film begins with a ceremony in which Uriel is officially installed in the academy – an accolade the deeply envious Eliezer, much to his chagrin, has never received.
The balance shifts when, following decades of frustrated anticipation, Eliezer learns that he is finally going to be awarded the prestigious Israel Prize. What unfolds is a game of generational one-upmanship driven by desire, pettiness and pride, involving not only Eliezer and Uriel but numerous academics whose careers are equally bogged down in the wildly competitive realm of Talmudic scholarship.
Cedar’s detailed approach possesses a playful literary quality. He incorporates novelistic devices throughout the film, such as chapter headings that describe the characters’ psychological undercurrents. It is not at all surprising that Footnote won the Best Screenplay Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. The story’s intriguing, morally complicated dynamics allow us to understand the ways in which father and son differ from and resemble each other. Yet for all its subtlety, Footnote also features scenes of great intensity, driven by Amit Poznansky’s unforgettable score, which imbues this relatively small-scale drama with an epic quality.
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert calls Footnote, which was nominated for an Oscar in the best Foreign Language category, one of the smartest and most merciless comedies to come along in a while. It centers on an area of fairly narrow interest, but in its study of human nature, it is deep and takes no prisoners. What happens is a series of events involving academic scholarship, familial jealousy and pride, stubbornness and poetic justice. All of these things come together wonderfully, and are so subtle that only the father and the son will completely understand them. Perfect.