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
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence