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?"

Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama