Did you know that award-winning actress Natalie Portman has already written and directed a full-length feature film in which she also starred?
It’s OK, if you didn’t. I didn’t either until about two weeks ago when the UP Film Center (UPC) posted on Facebook an invitation to for a free screening of Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness on June 9.
A few days before the UPC event, I decided to Google the film just so I’d have an idea what it’s all about and when Portman did the movie.
It was practically a pleasant shock for me to discover that A Tale of Love and Darkness was both hailed and lambasted at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2015 where it had a special screening outside competition.
I didn’t bother to read enough about the film and the Amos Oz novel on which it was based, believing that too much information would affect my viewing. For some reason—mainly ignorance, actually—I wasn’t moved by my initial discovery that the film depicted Israel during the time of the so-called “British Mandate.”
The screening, mounted by the Israeli Embassy at the UPFC Cine Adarna mostly had a crowd comprised of college students.
In a speech, the Deputy Chief of the Israeli Mission, Hadass Nisan, revealed that the embassy had bought the rights for three public screenings of the Portman film, and that the first screening was held at De La Salle University.
The film is really very un-commercial. If you don’t become mesmerized by Portman’s luminous beauty, and if you are hardly interested in history, you would be absolutely bored by it. At least one critic at the 2015 Cannes described the film as “dreary.” Well, understandably so. When you live in an ancient city as Jerusalem that is intermittently bombed, compelling you to exist for days every now and then in an underground shelter, how can an exciting film be done about your life? Another 2015 Cannes critic said everyone’s acting was “wooden.” But isn’t being “wooden” one of the best ways to survive a life almost constantly threatened by bombing? An alternative to being “wooden” in Jerusalem at the time of the mandate was suicidal.
In the end, while others find A Tale of Love and Darkness to be dreary, for me it is equally haunting.