17 October 2015 | hadarbechor
True to Oz
I had read the book when it was first published, and I felt it was a masterpiece. Oz captured the dark and difficult yet hopeful period of Jewish and Israeli history so well - from the siege on Jerusalem, to relations with Palestenians, to the impact of uprooted Eastern European Jewish survivors' lives. He also let us into the secrets of his childhood. It is a profound book.
Of course to turn this long and complex tale into a movie is very challenging, and especially as a directorial debut. However, I felt that Natalie Portman and her team captured the essence of the book. The period scenes, the choice of important segments of the book, the characters - it felt familiar to me, true to the book.
I'm sorry to read in a couple reviews that the historical references did not register. I personally feel that she did justice to the period, the place and the story. Yes, it was dark for the most part. Because Amos Oz remembered his childhood as dark, because of the times, the atmosphere in the home (his parents were mismatched), the poverty and the fear. And mostly because of his mother's falling into illness. In the book Oz never mentioned a diagnosis, but it was clear, and made clear in the movie as well, that she was clinically depressed, and no treatment was available. One of the parts I liked the best in the movie, was the sporadic appearance of the "new Jew" prototype, which she adored, and which her husband did not fit in the least. The handsome, strong man, the antithesis of the Eastern European Jewish nerdy and scholarly type. What she did with this mythic male at the end of the movie was brilliant, and the narrator also tells us that he himself tried to become this man, and couldn't. Maybe the viewers need to read some background before watching the film, but I felt justice was done to the book and to the spirit of it. Those who dismiss the linguistic aspects need to realize that the new and forming language, Hebrew, and the father and son's interests in life, are tied together, and represent a very important part of the story. That is probably why Natalie Portman insisted on the movie being in Hebrew. Will she adapt it into an English version? Maybe.