Israeli's allegorical film fantasy is a bold vision of a one-state solution

In one of the more daring, not to say crazily surreal, moments in the taboo-breaking Forgiveness, a troop of uniformed Israeli soldiers prance in an uninhibited Sufi-like dance to Arab music. The Israeli writer and artist Udi Aloni's first feature film opened here this week, little more than a month after the end of the Lebanon war.

If nothing else, the sequence, one of Aloni's personal favourites from the film, does justice to his vision in which, among other things, Arabs and Jews will finally and enthusiastically embrace each others' cultures. It is a vision underpinned by the to some subversive redo he holds, as a Jew, that "waking up and there not being any Palestinians would be my worst nightmare. It's something so beautiful about the two nations living there. Any homogenic culture seems hell to me".

That the sequence works is a tribute to his choice of the leading Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin to stage it. Similarly, while the US-Israeli production is relatively low-budget, the artists involved include some of the finest Israeli and Palestinian actors. Which may be just as well, for the film is one of the most challenging, as well as memorable, to hit Israeli screens in many years.

Having won acclaim at the Berlin Festival, it shows at the Copenhagen Festival this weekend.

David, a New York Jew, son of a holocaust survivor who is a successful musician, travels to Israel, joins the Army, unintentionally, though under orders to "shoot anything that moves", he kills a young Palestinian girl while on an operation in the West Bank.

He is haunted by the experience to the point of catatonic psychosis and fetches up in a psychiatric hospital, populated by shattered Holocaust victims, built on the site of Deir Yassin, the village where the Irgun and the Stern gang massacred more than 100 Palestinians during the 1948 War of Independence.

The young soldier is eventually given an anti-trauma drug designed to erase the memory of the act which has disabled him, returns to New York, has an affair with a beautiful Palestinian girl, Lila, whose daughter bears an uncanny resemblance to the one he shot before his sanity starts to unravel.

Aloni, 47, a New York-based writer and artist whose mother is Shulamit Aloni, long a leading peace activist and leader of the Israeli left, acknowledges debts to Alfred Hitchcock and Clint Eastwood among others. His film can also be read as an appeal to Aloni's fellow Israelis to confront and reappraise their own past, including what for Palestinians was the nakba or disaster of 1948, as a necessary first step towards reconciliation with the Palestinians.

Part-realistic, but much more an allegorical fantasy which explores what Aloni calls "the collective unconscious of a community that searches for its identity through its relation with the other Forgiveness is stirring controversy.

For Hannah Brown, the critic of the sharply right-leaning Jerusalem Post, the film's "whiny, bleeding-heart sensibility" help to make it perhaps the "most pretentious and annoying movie ever made".

But for Abner Shabit, of the Tel Aviv listings magazine, Ahbar Ha'ir, "The mixture of great acting, [and] spectacular aesthetics ... will convince the most doubting viewer a trip to the collective unconscious of the Jewish people is an interesting experience."

Whatever the defects of a film arguably overladen with literary allusion and symbolism - and they are the more easily overlooked, thanks to commanding performances by Itay Tiran as David, Clara Khoury as his girlfriend Lila, Makram J Khoury as the psychiatrist and Moni Mashanov as the mad-sane Holocaust survivor who helps David to confrontation with his demons - "whiny" seems well wide of the mark to describe Aloni.

He is an engaging, intellectually voracious bear of a man who shows every sign of as profound a sympathy with his fellow Jews as with the Palestinians. His friend, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek, says the film neither uses the Holocaust to justify "Israeli activity in the occupied zones" nor resorts to the "ridiculously false" and "latently anti-Semitic" equation of "what Nazis were doing to the Jews, the Jews are now doing to Palestinians".

Aloni cites Primo Levi as his "hero" for going back into the "trauma zone" in his chronicles of Auschwitz and recovering the "humanity" which Aloni sees as having died in the Holocaust. He says that, as artist, he wants to keep alive the vision of a "one-state solution" in which Palestinians and Israelis would co-exist as equal citizens, but says he would also strongly support a two-state settlement if it happened.

But the film is less a political tract than an appeal for each people to share the suffering of the other. "We have not only to acknowledge [the Palestinian displacement in] 1948," he says. "We have to feel it."

At one point the psychiatrist who administers the memory- suppressing drug to David reflects:"Can we really erase the memory of his trauma and yet keep the memory he inherited from his father, whose family was murdered for no other reason than for being Jews?"

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border