Maya (Maya Maron) a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl, is hoping for success as a pop singer, but she’s distracted by her worries at home and still mourning the recent death of her father. Her mother (Orly Silbersatz Banai) an overworked midwife, is struggling emotionally, and expects Maya to do much of the work of looking after her younger siblings Ido (Daniel Magon) and Bahr (Eliana Magon). Maya’s brother Yair (Nitai Gaviratz) has responded to the tragedy in his own way, by dropping out of school and adopting a nihilistic philosophy which views human beings as “specks of dust”. Over a twenty-four hour period, the stress becomes too much for everyone, triggering a further crisis which leads all the family members to a moment of realisation.
Review by Jake Wilson:
The terraced Israeli city of Haifa, built into the side of a valley, makes a wonderful movie location: when the characters in Broken Wings drive home or gaze out the window, we see layer after layer of concrete overpasses and monolithic 1960s apartment blocks stretched out beneath them, a soothingly mundane backdrop for their anguish and yearning. In this graceful if rarely surprising first feature, director Nir Bergman mostly keeps the camera close to the faces of his actors, but he also establishes some effective patterns of symbolic imagery, often related to vertical movement: characters leaping, falling, wanting to fly.
Yair expresses his sadness by renouncing his gift for shooting basketball hoops; his younger brother leaps into empty swimming pools (filming his efforts, like the little boy who takes photographs in Edward Yang‘s Yi Yi); Maya, seeking stardom as a pop singer, winds up saddled with the literal "broken wings" of the title. The widowed mother of this depressive brood, still in her early forties, shuffles through her daily errands like some blind, burrowing creature, her face sagging, her spirit broken. Preferring dreams to traumatic reality, Yair retreats to his darkened bedroom, and when his sister pulls open the curtains to admit the unbearable presence of light and space, he gets a poetic line: “You just killed a million planets.”
Truth be told, these terraced city spaces in themselves aren’t so far from those of Divine Intervention, the witty and inflammatory recent comedy by the brilliant Palestinian Elia Sulieman; but Broken Wings consciously avoids politics, and the metaphysical touches are more quirky than heartfelt. Suffering, here, is purely personal, and Bergman’s film suffers from the same difficulty that currently plagues arthouse filmmakers worldwide: how can the ordinary joys and sorrows of middle-class life be made to seem interesting and important, in the absence of any larger context of meaning? It would be unreasonable to expect this talented young director to have the subtlety or resourcefulness of a Yang or Mike Leigh (All or Nothing) but despite his skill and the charm of his actors, a film like this can make you nostalgic for the days when ambitious filmmakers were expected to tackle serious themes, rather than contenting themselves with soap-opera dramaturgy and whimsical gestures towards “significance”.
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BROKEN WINGS (M15+)
CAST: Orly Silbersatz Banai, Maya Maron, Nitai Gaviratz, Vladimir Friedman, Dana Ivgi, Danny Niv, Daniel Magon, Eliana Magon
PRODUCER: Assaf Amir
DIRECTOR: Nir Bergman
SCRIPT: Nir Bergman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Valentin Belonogov
EDITOR: Einat Glaser-Zarhin
MUSIC: Avi Belleli
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Art Direction: Ido Dolev
OTHER: Language: Hebrew
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: October 16, 2003; Sydney: October 23, 2003