The Holy Land

"Very Good"

The Holy Land Review


Dissonance pervades writer/director Eitan Gorlin's The Holy Land, the story of one Orthodox Israeli's coming-of-age adventures in Jerusalem. Conflict seems to manifest itself in every inch of Gorlin's film, from the ever-present strife between Jews and Muslims to the individual crisis brought about by the clash between old world customs and new world dreams and desires. Gorlin frames his narrative amidst Israel's holiest places (Dome of the Rock, the Temple Mount) to convey the role of God in everyday Jerusalem life. For those who subscribe to the tenets of Orthodox Judaism, such a role is one of oppressive devotion to scriptures that are frequently at odds with the experiences of the country's youth. Given the harsh societal and familial ramifications for those who do not unerringly devote their lives to His teachings, men and women wishing to nurture their faith while simultaneously exploring the secular world's various pleasures find that such a path is fraught with difficulties.

A teenager who lives with his ultra-religious family while devoting time to Torah studies, Mendy (Oren Rehany) loves God with all his heart, but such spiritual leanings have done little to deter the festering sexual urges he finds covert opportunities to self-satisfy. At odds with himself, Mendy is recommended by his Rabbi to visit a prostitute as a means of relieving such wanton and distracting cravings. Following the wise man's advice, he visits a Tel Aviv strip club, where he instantly falls in love with the Russian working girl who services him. Sasha (Tchelet Semel) is a sprightly immigrant beauty jaded beyond her years, and her disreputable profession and brash feistiness positions her character as a counterpoint to Mendy's conservative, subservient mother. Just as Mendy's burgeoning sexuality has no place in orthodox Jewish life, Sasha's status as an immigrant means that she has no hope of assimilating into the orthodox community, leaving her with scant few respectable career prospects. Through a chance encounter, Mendy befriends Mike (Saul Stein), an American ex-war photographer (and one of Sasha's regular customers) who now runs a seedy bar in Jerusalem. Taking to Mike's gregariousness and recognizing an opportunity to better acquaint himself with Sasha, Mendy moves out of his parents' house and surreptitiously takes a bartending job at the genial Yankee's grimy establishment. The bar is home to an assortment of colorful characters - including Mike's shady Palestinian business partner Razi; an elderly drunken professor; and a roguish wild man known as the Exterminator (Arie Moskuna), who lovingly refers to his assault rifle as "my baby" - and this religious, ethnic, and class diversity speaks to the city's, and country's, schizophrenic composition. As a man attempting to reconcile his steadfast religious beliefs with his growing love for both Sasha and forbidden delights (such as drinking, smoking pot, and hanging out with people his family and Rabbi would unflinchingly decry as undesirables), Mendy becomes the embodiment of Israel's schisms. Sasha's accidental shearing of his traditional long sideburns during an impromptu haircut - and Mendy's subsequent inadvertent involvement in Mike and Razi's shifty money-making scheme - only further symbolizes the emotional and spiritual crossroads that Mendy finds himself faced with.

If The Holy Land's success is largely attributable to Gorlin's facility for creating a prevailing sense of internal and external fracturing, its shortcomings can also be traced to the director's inability to reliably control such unstable material. Despite a series of sparsely beautiful compositions, Gorlin interjects a frustrating number of awkward transitional cuts that undo the film's fleet-footed rhythm and imbue the proceedings with a tentative coarseness. Yet if this lack of polish undercuts the film's tempo, it also complements the film's aura of authenticity, which can be attributed both to Gorlin's familiarity with the locale and culture - Mendy's experiences are based in part on the director's own escapades working in a Canadian expatriate's Jerusalem dive - and the naturalistic work of Rehany and Semel as the film's cautious and skeptical young lovers. Semel, given the formidable task of turning a "hooker with a heart of gold" role into something believable, proves an especially captivating presence with a beguiling proficiency for conveying ambiguity. Her Sasha is a woman torn between heeding her uncompromising conscience and her unruly heart, a dilemma shared by the confused and troubled men - as well as the pious metropolis itself - that populate Gorlin's incisive debut.

Holy moley!



The Holy Land

Facts and Figures

Run time: 102 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 22nd April 2001

Distributed by: Cavu Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 26

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Mendy, as Natasha "Sasha" Sonsova, as Mike, Albert Iluz as Razi

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.