Haganenet (2014)


(director: Nadav Lapid; cinematographer: Shai Goldman; editor: Era Lapid; music: Michael Emet; cast: Sarit Larry (Nira), Avi Shnaidman (Yoav Pollak), Lior Raz (Nira’s husband), Jil Ben David (The Poetry Teacher), Ester Rada (Miri, nanny), Dan Toren (Aharon Pollak, uncle), Yehezkel Lazarov (Amnon Pollak), Guy Oren (Asi), Oded (Hamuchtar); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Talia Kleinhendler, Osnat Handelsman-Keren, Carole Scotta; Pie Films; 2014-Israel/France-in Hebrew with English subtitles)

“Both tantalizing and convincing.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid (“Policeman”) helms this enticing mannered psychological drama about the titular kindergarten teacher, Nira (Sarit Larry), and her obsession with a 5-year-old, poetry-spouting wunderkind, Yoav (Avi Shnaidman), who upsets her unremarkable life. That Lapid makes this odd story, shot as if a documentary, both tantalizing and convincing, speaks to his filmmaking chops. Only at 2 hours does its great length and its pointed message about the country’s lack of interest in nurturing artists, become too much baggage. Anyway the film becomes increasingly less enjoyable after too many slow moving scenes, even if it works on the whole as an indeterminate drama.The kid is a child prodigy who falls into a trance before improvising verses that can’t be prompted out of him without his approval. They deeply affect the wannabe poetess teacher, who lacks his poetical talent.The unfulfilled teach leads a quiet married life with her nice guy government worker hubby (Lior Raz) and high school student daughter and army son. She feels obligated to take Yoav’s poetry to a writers’ workshop, passing it off as her own. Her classmates and professor all praise it. Convinced her student is a genius, teach gets carried away being his protector after fearing there’s no one else to mentor him if she doesn’t. His mom split with a lover and his father is a gruff and uncaring restaurateur (Yehezkel Lazarov), with no interest in the arts. The kid relates mostly to his Ethiopian nanny Mira (Ester Rada), who lisyens to his sponaneous poems. When teach signs him up for a poetry reading, then things become troubling as she stalks the kid, and starts weirdly washing him. One of the problems is that the poetry doesn’t sound that hot (maybe the Hebrew doesn’t translate well to English). And, though it was challenging, it only became more creepy and more critical of Israel’s materialistic society the more it went on. The art-house film was selected for a special screening at the Cannes Critics’ Week.