Nina’s Tragedies, 2003

On the day of his father’s funeral, the curious and meddlesome adolescent Nadav (Aviv Elkabeth) peeps in through the window of the funeral home where the rabbi is making last minute preparations for the burial, a task that involves calling an unreliable, impatient repairman during a torrential rain in order to fix a chronically squeaky gurney wheel. Ordering the technician to remain throughout the services in an attempt to ensure the soundness of his repair work, the somber proceeds from the idiosyncratic point of view of the erratic wheel as it precariously wobbles out of stability and back into its familiar, irritating din. The seemingly surreal, deceptively lyrical opening sequence provides an elegantly conceived framework for filmmaker Savi Gabizon’s elegantly modulated tragicomedy. Told from the perspective of young Nadav, the only child of separated parents, the film proceeds in a series of flashbacks as his religious father is asked by the school principal to read passages from his Navi’s confiscated journal in order to determine if his son is merely engaging in innocuous, fanciful creative writing or involved in some perverse relationship with an older woman, his impossibly beautiful, recently widowed aunt Nina (Ayelet Zorer). During the post-screening Q&A, Gavizon cited Bertrand Blier as perhaps his greatest influence in becoming a filmmaker, a reference that seems particularly suitable within the context of the fanciful, almost absurdist mundane situations encountered by the characters in the film (which idiosyncratically includes a style obsessed, Jil Sander-clad, promiscuous mother, a reforming peeping tom, a haunted memory involving bedouin pants, and a seemingly nude ghost). Richly constructed, sincerely affirming, and elegantly realized, Nina’s Tragedies presents a whimsical, yet incisive and intricately observed view of the cultural fusion innate in contemporary life in Tel Aviv through the ephemeral, universal mystery of adolescence.

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