Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Imagine a closed shop. Or rather, a strict, structured, religious community, in which everyone knows everyone else’s business and nonconformity is a stain on the reputation of the whole. One for all and all for… No! This is not a rollicking romp, in which cavaliers behave badly with upper class gels. It’s not Witness 2, either, although it might easily have taken place amongst the Amish. And any connection with Tom Cruise or Stanley Kubrick is purely coincidental.

The location is Jerusalem, amongst ultra-orthodox Jews. Dress code: black. Sexual preference: night clothes, lights out, straight. Conversation: limited. Pleasure: fleeting.

Aaron is a butcher. He is married, with children. He does everything right, obeys the laws, has a beard, looks miserable. Along comes Ezri, a dangerous influence. He is 22 years old, a boundary bender in more ways than one and fatally attractive to closet depressives. The rabbi considers him bad news. Aaron teaches him cutting up meat skills, while fighting hidden urges he didn’t know he had. His wife knows something is wrong, but, since they don’t talk about difficult stuff, such as Marriage: What The Hell’s The Point?, she lurks, ever watchful, along the bayonet-slashed walls of convention.

Haim Tabakman must be congratulated on choosing Merav Doster’s script for his debut feature film. It is a controversial subject that is tackled as full on as is possible within the constraints of Israeli sensibility (“Don’t bring him to the synagogue”). The passion that Aaron experiences is well expressed by Zohar Strauss (“I was dead. Now I am alive”), although expression is more physical than intellectual, and Ran Danker perfectly portrays the reckless sensuality of youth.

Eyes Wide Open will be categorised with Gay & Lesbians in the genre pool, but this is about conforming - or not, as here – to the suffocating pressures of society. Obeying the Book and listening to the Man is the meaning of life. If the Calvinists had problems with lust – they chopped it off and fed it to the swine – these Jews swallow hard, talk of “a sinner amongst us” and throw rocks through windows.

Oscar Wilde would not have approved. No jokes.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2010
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A married butcher in ultra-orthodox Jerusalem has a passionate gay love affair with an itinerant student.
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Director: Haim Tabakman

Writer: Merav Doster

Starring: Zohar Strauss, Ran Danker, Tinkerbell Ravit Rozen, Tzahi Grad, Isaac Sharry, Avi Grayinik

Year: 2009

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Israel/Germany/France

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