Eliezer (Shlomo Bar-Aba) and Uriel Shkolink (Lior Ashkenazi) are father and son. Both eccentric professors, they have dedicated their lives to their work. Eliezer, the father, seems a stubborn purist who fears the establishment. His son, Uriel, appears to strive on accolades, endlessly seeking recognition. But one day, the tables turn. The two men switch places when the father learns he is to be awarded the most valuable honor he can receive. His desperate need for recognition is betrayed, his vanity exposed. Uriel is torn between pride and envy. Will he sabotage his father's glory?
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Sometimes whimsical, often sardonic (with Amit Poznansky's underscore emphasising the humorous tone when required) Footnote is both serious and mocking about a father son relationship centered in arcane reaches of academia; Talmudic texts. Sounds a bit dull to most of us, I admit, but filmmaker Joseph Cidar brings the characters to the front and uses cinematic devices to engage us. For instance, a series of 'background briefings' as it were, on the father and the son, cutely framed as 'things you should know about ...'
The film dramatically switches tone when a simple office mistake creates a potentially explosive situation - increasing the father-son tensions, which are driven by professorial competition. This is when the filmmakers dig deeper into the psyche of both father and son, as well as expose some flaws in the system of awarding academic prizes. It may be fictional, but it does strike a credible note.
But ultimately it's a film about how fathers and sons manage the added complexity in their relationship of professional rivalry - and the potential for deep wounds to be inflicted by one upon the other.
To succeed in engaging us, the film demands two pitch-perfect performances. Characterisations that avoid shallow caricatures and deliver complex, tangible characters. Shlomo Bar-Aba and Lior Ashkenazi both excel as academics at war with each other for deeper and more complicated reasons than a highly prized award.
Review by Louise Keller:
Music is the driver of this expressly Jewish film about academic rivalry between father and son, in which emotions sway like a boat tossed on choppy seas. While Joseph Cedar's film may be limited in its specific subject matter of researching Talmudic literature, as a study in human nature it hits its mark, with smartly observed cadences that exemplify responses between two men who are brilliant in different ways and clash in the backwash as they strive for recognition.
It takes a while to get going - 40 minutes in fact - before we start to realise where the narrative is heading and what the wordy detailed passages about specialist Jewish studies are really about. It's an interesting premise with an equally interesting structure and the use of music, injecting high drama alongside a curious cat and mouse curiosity, gives the film a unique slant.
In the early sequence in which Uriel Shkolnik (Lior Ashkenazi) is welcomed before an enthusiastic audience into the National Israel Academy of Sciences, the camera rests solely on the expressionless face of his father, Professor Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar Aba). We hear the applause through his ears: it is muffled and discordant. It is clear that Eliezer is disconnected from everything that is happening. The scene in which the security guard at the function asks him to identify himself is telling; Eliezer avoids mentioning his relationship with the guest of honour. It's as though he resents being there on account of his son.
It is over the next hour and a half that we observe the highs and lows of the pendulum swings of frustration, irritation, concessions and deterioration of the relationship between father and son. Evidently both ambitious, both men approach their highly specialised work from a totally different standpoint. Uriel is chaotic, messy and thrives on being recognised; his father is a purist, plodding through a lifetime of methodical diligence, his life's pride and only acclaim coming in the form of a footnote in an acclaimed (but deceased) colleague's book. That is before the issue of the coveted Israel Prize arises, for which Eliezer has applied for the past twenty years.
The key scene in which Uriel is called to the Ministry for Education to receive some good and bad news marks the film's highlight and in which music plays no part at all. The messages are varied as we observe the accolade-hungry Eliezer long for his five minutes in the sun, while Uriel is faced by an impossible decision. It is the shift of Uriel's nice-guy, afraid of confrontation, when provoked that gives the film ballast.
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CAST: Shlomo Bar-Aba, Lior Ashkenazi, Aliza Rosen, Yuval Scharf
PRODUCER: Joseph Cedar, Leon Edery, Moshe Edery, David Mandil
DIRECTOR: Joseph Cedar
SCRIPT: Joseph Cedar
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yaron Scharf
EDITOR: Einat Glaser Zarhin
MUSIC: Amit Poznansky
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arad Sawat
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 19, 2012