Shlomo Bar'Aba, Lior Ashkenazi, Alisa Rosen, Alma Zack, Daniel Markovich, Micah Lewensohn, Yuval Scharf and Nevo Kimchi.
Footnote is a movie from Israel that was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film category in Oscars this year. Footnote reminded me of A Serious Man, this movie has the style, wit and look of a Coen Brothers movie overall but shares some details with the above mentioned movie of them. Footnote is a satirical dark comedy with some serious elements and some really dysfunctional/flawed characters that makes up for a good viewing experience, thanks also to the actors and the writing. It revolves around the troubled relationship between a father and a son, both of them teach at the Talmud department of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. They are both highly regarded literary figures and scholars. Eliezer (Bar'Aba), the father is someone who dedicated his life to the research of different versions of the Jerusalem Talmud and everything else to do with it. His son Uriel (Ashkenazi) is someone who is the most popular among the two, he has been recently elected as the member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. You can see from the very first moment how Eliezer is, the kind of a relationship he has with his son and the kind of a person that he is. He is very stubborn, anti-social, frustrated and just all around bitter. The biggest reason for that is his years old rivalry with another scholar, Prof. Yehuda Grossman (Lewensohn) who published something that Eliezer was already working for years on before him while not giving much of a credited except for a footnote to the highly regarded reference. Eliezer is very critical of the new methods these days as he is very old-school in terms of the research. He wants to be recognized and appreciated for what he has been doing all his life by the Israel Prize Committee but he is not awarded every year, he is also envious of his son's popularity and success.
The way Joseph Cedar unfolds the family dynamics, the rivalry that exists between father and the son, the usual politics of academies, the flaws of society in general with some stylistic and intelligent choices, quirky and dark humor makes up for a highly enjoyable and at times quite thrilling movie. What makes this father-son dynamic even more awkward and insane is when it is mistakenly revealed to Eliezer over the phone that he has been selected as the winner of the year's Israel prize, which is something he has been waiting for all his life. But in reality that prize is meant for his son but the telephone operator mistakenly reveals it to the senior Shkolnik and not to the junior. The prize Committee calls up Uriel and informs him about the error and wants to fix it. Uriel is now in such difficult position, his father deserves this and so does he. Grossman is someone who doesn't want his father to win, he's been vetoing the vote for years. Grossman agrees on giving Eliezer the prize on conditions that Uriel will write a recommendation and that he himself would never be a candidate ever again. Movie then continues with Uriel trying to figure out how to reveal that to his father while the usual rivalry that exists makes it even harder for him not to resist.
The whole structure of the movie is quite interesting and intelligent, the use of music is quite effective with the whole theme giving it quite a dramatic and thrilling effect. While the use of certain effects and interesting graphics to show the stories, backdrops, flashbacks or interesting details about the characters, their past and their inner feelings is quite genius. Interesting transition of the movie from a straightforward dark comedy/dysfunctional family dynamic to this cat and mouse chase of people trying to prove how right they are or how much they deserve a certain something because they think they are the best. One can't help but become curious as to what would be the next move for these characters. The fact that you would let your father get all the deserved praise that he gets for something that is truly yours but still you know that he has been struggling to get it all his life and this might be his only chance. The life long rift that exists between these characters makes it even worse for them to speak up or accept the reality, they are too proud to that. Their home becomes much more than a simple house but an arena. Towards the end, during an interview Eliezer realizes the truth and his wife is being told the same by her son before. The final moments in the movie are one of the most effective, truly magnificent and perfectly thought out scenes in years for a movie that doesn't really rely on one thing or one way to show what it wants to. Both Eliezer and his wife knows the truth but they don't talk about it. Their son is not happy with whats going on. Finally the moment comes when Eliezer is about to get the honor and that one final close up towards his face shows so much. We quickly realize that there is always more to a person then we think. Movie ends abruptly on that point and we don't really know whether he accepts the award or rejects it for his son. But that one final moment is enough for us to truly realize what an incredible movie we just watched and it makes up for an effective experience. That man doesn't look stubborn, angry or bitter anymore but there is a certain affection, guilt, realization and this uncertainty to it, not sure of what he is going to do or what he wants to do. Forget what is right or what is wrong, its not always about that. People are flawed, our flaws makes up for who we really are because we always go for what we want to do and what we don't which can be both right and wrong.
Footnote is about the generation gap that exists between people of all ages. Age and experience effects the way you see different things. We can be right and wrong in both ways, its just the matter of how you see things. Its about the dangers of too much success and the complex situation where you do so much for the world and you don't get nothing in return for it, people wants to be recognized for the great things they have been doing all their lives specially if they completely dedicate it to that cause. The rifts and complex dynamics that arises within families when you completely isolate yourself from them for your ambition no matter what the reason is, it always turns out bad. Cedar does a tremendous job in observing, searching and exploring the very depth of these interesting things in quite details giving them the adequate dramatic heft that they need followed by quirky, awkward if dark humor that makes up for interesting premise. Pitch perfectly written screenplay as i have been mentioning it all along, deserved the Best Screenplay award it got at last year's Cannes. Both actors gives amazing performances. Bar'Aba specially in his role as the arrogant, pissed off and serious old-school man with high regards for his roots and uncompromising outlook at life gives a magnificent performance, the best in this movie. Ashkenazi too gives a very good performance as the son troubled and haunted by what is the right thing to do in these unbelievable situations, giving us the right blend of an exhausted and confused person but still with a big heart. Both of these characters are not likable, they are both right and wrong and they are quite flawed but still very right on certain level.
Footnote is one of the best recent foreign movies i have seen, one of my most favorite movies of the year and the best movie from Israel i have seen ever. I'll be looking forward to what Joseph Cedar does in the future.