Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Disengagement. (2007) Amos Gitai

Two standout scenes bookend the latest Gitai film, Disengagement. They both involve crossing borders and reaching out -- no matter your background or identity.

The film's title, and how it works itself into all the intricacies of this poetic story, is significant. We disengage when we isolate and protect our heart from others. We disengage in seeing hardship but in failing to respond. Watching the 5:30 news, we're engrossed in viewing and unable to help. What else can we do? The problems remain. We're aware of all the details -- we turn it off and move on.

The disengagement in Disengagement is very much of the political sphere, but it's personal, too, and told like a meaningful parable. It can teach via innuendo; it's best viewed from several directions.

The story can be summarized best as two in one: a pair of siblings reunited in the loss of their Father, and the interplay of nationalities separated by awkward boundaries. As the story progresses, the two become one: a birth mom searching for her long, lost daughter, reeling as the young lady is once again pulled away.

Juliette Binoche is outstanding as the flirtatious sanguine half-sister who becomes said mom by the film's end. She also represents many nations who peek in but have their own problems to worry about, and can't be bothered. The story's end is terribly abrupt for the on-hand narrative, but perfect for the political message to sink in.

I'm not going to pretend to understand all of the underlying politics involved in the background of Disengagement. I'm not going to spout off about Gaza, or an occupation, or which side is right or what the sides need to do. I hold strong anti-partisan beliefs in the hope that someday all will be united. But I love it when an artist brings views to an audience that can catch on whether they have all his understanding or not.

You can understand the concepts here -- they are rich and deep, and full of toughened reaction to a struggle -- whether you're close to the situation or not, or whether you're a film scholar and have seen seventeen other Gitai films, or if you're like me and this is your first. 

Through riveting performances, characters convince you of a higher plane -- that this narrative points to a higher ideal. It feels like film was made for stories such as this. These tenacious little tales can affect us for the better.

a PS to this review -- I remembered this the next day: Disengagement has one of the greatest hugs I have ever seen in a film. Seriously, see it for the hug alone.

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