Noam Kaplan on women, technology, Israeli hubris and The Future

by Jennie Kermode

The Future
The Future Photo: Nati Levi

Recently screened as part of Tribeca 2023, Noam Kaplan’s latest film, The Future, follows three women whose lives intersect at moments which present different challenges for each of them. Nurit (Reymonde Amsallem) is an Israeli criminal profiler and the designer of a new piece of software which is supposed to be able to identify terrorists by analysing their movements and behaviour. Yaffa (Samar Qupty) is a young Palestinian woman whose assassination of the Minister for Space and Tourism she failed to predict. Then there’s Maor (Dar Zuzovsky), whom Nurit is getting to know with a view to using her services as a surrogate so that she can experience motherhood. Over the course of a few weeks we observe their conversations and the way that they – especially Nurit – change as a result, whilst in the background, an Israeli space venture is attempting to put a man on the Moon.

During the festival I met Noam to discuss the film, which he both wrote and directed. I began by asking him about the decision to have Nurit going through fertility treatment, which causes her main and interferes with her emotions, putting her in a really interesting psychological space.

“At the beginning, I was just thinking about having her give it a try, but then I realised, no, let's see her act on it,” he says. “Obviously, this decision arrives late in your life. She's in her early forties. I wanted to show how hard it is, and what women have to go through in order to have a child. My wife and a lot of a lot of people around us use all kinds of hormones for IVF, and it's amazing how hard it is for women. I thought it would also be interesting, and add to the character and add to the complexity of her situation, and get her to do something that maybe is actually beyond her power. She’s arriving late to the decision, trying to get everything: her career, also children, also occupying Palestine.”

She’s a very analytical character and the way we see her having to reckon with unexpected emotions seems to parallel some of what the film has to say about technology.

“Yeah. In terms of technology in this film there’s this and, obviously, the technology she develops that fails to predict the assassination of the Minister of Space, and then she’s got to go old the fashioned way, having conversations. I really believe in that rather than the technology. I think technology will get us just so far, you know? It will never really solve our problems.”

It’s rare to see a film dealing with issues like this which centres on women.

“I really don't know why I decided to make it all women. It wasn't a conscious decision. But I will say that the film I made before that was all about men. There were no women and it failed the Bechdel test. I was’nt to try to compensate for that. I wasn't really aware of it. But it's something that I felt very strongly, that I wanted to make a woman-centred film. I think they might have a better chance to maybe solve some of the problems we have. So it was like an experiment, you know? And I felt I knew enough women – I mean, I have a partner in life and two daughters and three sisters and a mother. I'm surrounded with women in my house 24/7. I thought it would be interesting to go that way. Women have the power to bring life and to end life. They have power to affect the future. And maybe it's their time to take the stage and take us to a better future.”

This focus creates more opportunities for the film to explore the microaggressions which influence characters’ behaviour, but alongside those, there are all sorts of other small observations which build together to tell the story.

“I'm fascinated with trivial matters, things we do in our life anyway,” he says. “In drama you take those things out. You won't see somebody changing a shirt or making an undramatic action. But for me, it’s the opposite. I like trivial moments. If you can make an art out of that, those little things are not so little – they're actually most of our lives. We have wars, but we have all kinds of problems hour to hour. You deal with trivia, what to buy to your mother, what shirt to wear, what to make for lunch for your kids. If you can make a film out of that, I think I think it's more difficult and more challenging, and it's good. I like it in film and also in literature, to view those trivial moments against a political backdrop, against a crime story.”

Those little things do a lot to help trust develop between Nurit and Maor. It’s interesting the Nurit’s career is based around prediction, and predicting her surrogate’s behaviour is one of the biggest personal decisions she’s ever had to make, but she suddenly seems less certain.

“I think she questions everything, you know what I mean? I think she really wants to believe her. I think she wants to trust her and convinces herself that she trusts her and that this is what she wants to do, but then she realises it’s not necessarily true, and at the end she listens better to herself, to her body or her conscience.”

it’s a film which relies on a very precise balance between the performances of the three leads. How was that achieved?

“We had to be very careful,” he says. “It was a small film but we had about a month to prepare for it. We had a lot of rehearsals and a lot of talks, conversations. I tried to let them bring a lot of themselves and their ideas and, if I could, make it a collaborative process much as possible and have them feel comfortable and confident.”

We talk about the space project in the film. Is it another form of colonialism, or of reaching out in search of a safe place to go?

“It’s both,” he says. “They are trying to colonise not only Earth, the actual land, but also space, and it has a lot to do with the Israeli hubris that they can conquer anything, with a very strong army, a very high tech nation, and they can put a man on the Moon, you know? ‘We can do it, we can be like United States or China. We are a superpower.’ I really wanted to challenge that hubris and put this mirror against that and say ‘What? We are not a superpower.’ We can't really do it and it really doesn't feel important at all to put a man on the Moon. Let's make peace on Earth first and then put a man on the Moon.

“I try to present the future as worse than now. I mean that if we continue on we have little or no future. This is my view, anyway. I'm using this Moon expedition as an allegory. We all want to escape there and be engrossed with that, but it doesn't really matter. It’s a metaphor for something that fades.”

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