5 April 2011 | johnnyboyz
More than substantial piece going on to explore the coming together of two characters in what is a fascinating film; keep your eyes peeled wide open for it.
Eyes Wide Open is the fantastically well played drama, eventually coming to mutate into a tale of taboo romance, of two men of differing ages and places in life formulating a bond that is much to the acknowledged risk of either party; the suspicion of those close to them and the eventual disdain of everybody else in the community. The film opens in the pouring rain, the back-streets of Israel acting as a run down and somewhat decrepit setting for middle-aged husband and father of two Aaron Fleischman (Shtrauss) to finally return to his butcher shop following the grief he has suffered born out of the loss of his father. Aaron is in a tough situation, the rain is heavy and there is little in the way of protection; the padlock on the shutter to the entrance of the shop proving an obstacle in the way made only possible to get rid of by resorting to a last-ditch effort of brute force to bash one's way through and in. Such an introductory situation goes on to encapsulate that of the film's; a predicament gradually, slowly getting worse before pushing mutates into shove and the conventional methods of a particular process must be put aside to deal with the scenario in a more pachydermatous manner.
Aaron goes on to take over his father's business; a butcher's business he helped his father out with here and there whilst much younger but a father now whose presence is strictly limited to that of memories and in photographs. Enter Ezri (Danker), a student in his early twenties whom has recently been flitting from place-to-place whilst trying to keep up with his studies; a man whom will come to play a large part in Aaron's life in the near future. Initially somewhat muted when on screen together, Aaron hires the young man as an apprentice in order to show him the basic routines of butchery; each hammer blow that comes down out of Ezri's swinging of the cleaver bringing about a terrific 'thump' on the wooden board. His freshness at wielding such a tool and the might with which he is operating it, what with his other hand in such close proximity, going on to neatly epitomise the danger the film will go on to carry - a 'close-to-all-but-disastrous-results' sensation which will surely come about if something goes wrong both in this new role and if certain revelations cannot be kept from the masses.
The men share some common ground just as much as the film enjoys establishing them as the binary opposites to one another. As a student, Ezri has committed most of his life to studying, whereas Aaron has done anything but although confirms that he would certainly like to. Ezri's wincing at the sight of what it is a butcher does is simply part-and-parcel of life to Aaron whereas Aaron's devout attention to religion is exemplified during a process of prayer in a local place of worship, something in stark comparison to Ezri who merely sleeps through such a gathering as everyone else of his ilk appear thoroughly into proceedings. When Ezri first enters the butcher's shop, he is rightfully wet-through due to the aforementioned rain; Aaron has had time to dry and the distinction between the men in their appearance in this regard strikes us. It is only much later on during which both men have arrived at a local spring, as their relationship develops, when the pair of them at once become as wet as Ezri was during that initial confrontation, the marking of Aaron in a similar manner symptomatic of his changing feelings and shifting onto a plain similar to that of Ezri in terms of akin homosexuality.
It is established Aaron is not a man whom is particularly scared to stand up to authority or a predominant voice, especially one within the community when he challenges a local Rabbi, who was an old friend of his father's, on certain theological views. Aaron's going against the distinguished norm here is later a characteristic he very much takes on to a further level in his coming together with Ezri. During another sequence, the verbal highlighting of Aaron's actions as that of dangerous or would-be scornful within the community is put across during a car journey; the Rabbi's pointing out of another young local boy and the subsequent labelling him as a "trouble-maker" is another example of where the nature of ill-advised relationships with others gets you within the community; his crime being the pursuing of a girl out of love with tendencies to stalk. As loose connections grow into greater unifiers, so does the film as the substantial and engrossing tale it is; Aaron's slow disenchantment at his family and life as a husband is highlighted in the bringing together of two single beds whilst with his wife, and yet it is inferred that very little happens. This could be seen in binary opposition to the two male leads, whom both share common ground in that when they initially meet, the pair of them are in the process of slipping out of a close bond or powerful tie with a gentlemen that meant a lot to them: Ezri's with a male partner we later hear him leave whilst on the phone and Aaron with his grief at loosing his father.
Director Haim Tabakman, running off of a Merav Doster screenplay, brings his characters together and explores in an absorbing and riveting fashion their back-stories plus behaviours before having that equality ruptured in a refreshing and dramatically involving way. Where many recent Isreali films have documented the past or certain other difficult, grizzly issues on the minds of Isrealis or Isreali communities, namely the Lebenon-set wars in films ranging from Beaufort to Waltz With Bashir, Eyes Wide Open explores another issue of immense controversy in the form of homosexuality and turning away from one's faith for personalised happiness within the said culture and does so wonderfully well.