Tribute to Amos Gitai
Austria, Israel, UK, 1985, 97 min.
Dir. Amos Gitai
Cannes: Festival de Cannes 1986 - Critics' Week
This first long feature, designed as an immense “tableau vivant” tells the Old Testament story of Esther, who does not know she is Jewish when she is chosen by King Ahasuerus as his wife. Upon discovering a plot against her people, she manages to save them. Using this myth of survival and resistance, Amos Gitai also narrates the vengeful exterminations perpetrated by the Jews against their enemies. This violence resonates with current events, creating a parallel underscored by the ruins of Wadi Salib, where Gitai filmed the story. This is the first part in a trilogy that also comprises Berlin-Jerusalem and Golem, the Spirit of Exile. « The director holds the story at an analytical distance. Events are re-enacted in a sequence of ritual tableaux shots in the ruins of Wadi Salib, the old Arab neighborhood of Haifa that the Palestinians abandoned after the 1948 war. The sense of ancient unsettled scores that have simmered for centuries is almost palpable in this beautiful but ravaged territory. In the most striking shots, the actors seem to blend into the architecture like the figures in Persian miniatures. These shots are pointedly contrasted with others photographed in the same vicinity, which make it look like a squalid contemporary junkyard. The juxtapositions suggest how overwhelmingly the region’s history continues to haunt Israel’s present. » (Stephen Holden, New York Times, 1989).