Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Man o'War

A young woman awakening to the first sources of her grief, while her scorned, scorning mother and Tomcat father watch guiltily (as parents must) from the margin; a photographer tripping endlessly over her talent; a Russian-immigrant groom trying to appease his unrealized bride, whose poetic lava will need morbidity to be released; a poised, erotically charged woman looking for the words to die; a caregiver from the Philippines, pining for her son back home, attending to an (ostensibly) implacable, sickly woman, whose daughter drifts into a performance of Hamlet, directed by a Arab, caught in a somewhat slanted avant-garde; an adorable she-child, dripping from the ocean, lost.  These are the unlikely, vivid dots connected by Shira Gefen's and Etgar Keret's stunning film "Jellyfish."

Actually, the film is called Meduzot in Hebrew, which like the English Man o'War implies the pervasive danger of a sting. You cannot see the film and not wonder if Tel-Aviv has become the new capital of an Eastern European ghost country; a city of angular, socialist architecture, housing budding bourgeois loneliness, what we use to call "alienation"; where political ideology, no longer worth debating, leaves a toxin whose symptom is anger. And yet a city where, if unexploded sadness is the problem, the artful, brilliant embrace of sadness is the solution. 

Jung said the pathway to love is through grief, which is almost always over childhood wounds: our unforgettable hunger for a mother's humility, or a father's cheek; pains that can never be banished but can eventually be borne, at least if we have the privilege of adulthood.

"Jellyfish" gives us the divine redemption of love in, of all ways, a secular film produced in the Jewish state. In these days when the anger seems so turned outward, it is perversely reassuring to know that it can also be turned inward. So see "Jellyfish" and then be brave: think about over 100 children killed in Gaza. Or be braver: think about what children see and feel and remember.