16 February 2008 | friedt
All the world's a stage--and someone is directing
Dror Sabo, director of No Exit, has described his film as a comment on Israeli society that tries to divert itself from its painful daily reality by turning to daily "Reality Shows." In fact, though the film does condemn cultures that can be manipulated by shrewd entrepreneurs to live their lives through broadcast programs, its satire is directed at the men and women of the TV industry, particularly the "reality" segment. The theater audience is also targeted. We might think we are in on the joke, but in fact we are part of the jokethe beautiful people and melodramatic moments seduce us into enjoying the essentially corrupt world depicted in No Exit.
The story begins when the creator of a reality show in need of fresh ideas cynically co-opts the work of a documentary filmmaker, his former student. Promising funds, he convinces Yehuda to merge his film about the rehabilitation of a blind soldier into the reality show "Choice of Heart," and to do so without revealing to the 10 beautiful contestants that the man wooing them is blind. Once Yehuda accepts the offer to direct the reality show, his downward spiral begins. The system succeeds via fakery, dishonesty, and manipulation, and Yehuda becomes a willing practitioner of these dark arts. The pacifist subject of his documentary agrees to be turned into a war hero and to play along with the blindness swindle. Yael, his therapist and Yehuda's girl friend, is pulled in as well. And presiding above it all is the snake in the Garden, the grand manipulator, Zachy, the creator of the show. Not that anyone else is pure. Becky Romano, one of the 10 girls in the show, is a master contriver herself, and the other girls who are chosen shed previous lovers and ideals without hesitation, ready to marry the blind man if they "win."
But the film deals with the important ethical issues about power, truth, and fidelity with a sharp and entertaining satire. As most successful commercial television, No Exit attracts as it repels, with its beautiful, sexy women, melodramatic twists of the plot, self-centered yet larger than life characters, and grand gestures. As it condemns voyeurism, it makes us all into voyeurs, pulling us into a guilty enjoyment of the spectacle even as we condemn the shenanigans of amoral individuals. Sabo, however, is always in control of his material. His framing visually emphasizes the theme with rectangular and multiple screens, windows, and openings, reminding us constantly that we are watching a film. Although he gives Zachy, the grand stage manager, a successful end to his show, Sabo clearly condemns the manipulative industry and the society that allows itself to be suckered by it. And if there is an exit in this hell of corrupt people, he sits at the gateway to the lot---Michal, the only Orthodox character in the film whose digital recordings see and hear all and whose purity actually makes some of the character aware of their shortcomings.