Review: Mountain – Hahar (2015)

Mountain – Hahar (2015)

Directed by: Yaelle Kayam | 83 minutes | drama | Actors: Hitham Omari, Shani Klein, Avshalom Polak

If you go to Jerusalem, you really can’t miss the Mount of Olives. The mountain, which is in fact a ridge with a total of four peaks, lies on the east side of the city and takes its name from the many olive trees that grow there. At the foot of the mountain is Gethsemane, the place where Jesus was handed over to the Romans. Many biblical events took place on the Mount of Olives. In the Bible book of Zechariah, the mountain is mentioned as the place from which God will begin resurrecting all the dead at the end of time. For this reason, the mountain has always been a popular burial place for Jews from Jerusalem. To this day, the Mount of Olives is used as a cemetery; It is estimated that some 150,000 tombs can be found on the mountain, which is not far from another mountain of great importance to believers who follow one of the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam): the Temple Mount.

The visually stunning cemetery on the Mount of Olives plays a crucial role in the 2015 film ‘Mountain’ (original Hebrew title is ‘Ha’har’) Israeli filmmaker Yaelle Kayam made her feature film debut with it. The film revolves around Zvia (Shani Klein), an Orthodox Jewish woman in her mid-30s who lives with her husband Reuven (Avshalom Polak) and four young children in a house on the edge of the cemetery. Zvia is lonely, we soon discover that. Once her kids are at school, she hangs out among the graves. Her husband is an extremely devout religious teacher, who barely shows any affection and is often absent. When he is at home, he treats Zvia more like a servant than his lover. In the serenity of the cemetery, where many prominent Jews are buried, she hopes to find the claim she lacks at home. She occasionally chatted with Abed (Hitham Omari), a sympathetic Palestinian gravedigger, but she wouldn’t let him get too close. The contact is her way of rebelling against her rejecting husband, as is the fact that she does not take a Torah with her when she wanders among the graves, but a collection of poems by Zelda, a well-known Jewish poet who knows exactly how she feels. . Zvia shows another form of rebellion by regularly slipping out of the house at night to smoke cigarettes. One evening, she discovers that the graveyard’s sacred ground is turning into a Sodom and Gomorrah late in the night, where prostitutes and drug dealers rule. On the one hand, the scene horrifies her, but curiously enough, she is also attracted to the shadowy world.

‘Mountain’ is a modest film that has more to offer than you initially think. That is largely due to Shani Klein, the lead actress who embraces you without hesitation. She doesn’t need many words for that; her looks and body language speak volumes. She tries so hard to get her husband to show interest in her again. She prepares good food, takes good care of the children and immerses herself in the mikveh (cleansing ritual for Jewish women after they have had their period) so that she can go back to bed with him. But Reuven doesn’t flinch; he is married to his faith and not to Zvia. At one point they only see each other early in the morning, during his morning prayers. We see Zvia languish due to so much disinterest from her husband, and we understand very well that she is looking for her salvation elsewhere. We see her despair growing; how far do you have to be if you would rather let a prostitute bark at you than stay safe in your house? Zvia’s act of desperation doesn’t even come out of the blue, but it doesn’t make it any less horrifying. Yaelle Kayam lets her viewers think for themselves when she comes to her conclusion. Silently it comes to a penetrating apotheosis that trembles long after.

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