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

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
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.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor