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The Schmooze

Avishai Sivan, Director and Writer Of ‘Tikkun’ on the Film’s Erotic Symbolism

During my conversation with author/director Avishai Sivan of the torturously wrenching stark film Tikkun, he said that though his first feature film was also about the Haredi Hassidic community, ‘‘Tikkun’ took seven years of research for which I went undercover in the community.”

The film opens with young yeshiva scholar Haim-Aron— exquisitely portrayed by first time actor and former Hasid Aharon Traitel —collapsing, losing consciousness, then being miraculously brought back to life (“resurrected”) by his authoritarian—yet loving— father, intensely portrayed by Arab actor Khalifa Natour—a Kosher butcher— who in the opening frames of the film is shown butchering a cow.

Masha Leon: Why the Orthodox community as the background for a film about despair and also why the emphasis on necrophilia? And why is his conflict vis a vis his religious commitment, inability to rise to heights of religious conviction enveloped in such a pornographic context?

Avishai Sivan: For me, I took it from a painting by French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-77). It’s a kind of a very naughty mocking of his painting, a disrespect [of] culture…women.

ML: Why in such stark black and white and not color? There were moments in your film that reminded me of the films by Luis Bunuel.

AS: Yes. I was inspired by Bunuel…his surrealism.

ML: Your film is full of symbolism…. What was the symbolism of the crocodile coming out of the toilet?

AS: I wrote this scene without knowing why it would have any meaning…. To Orthodox people the crocodile is one of the devils…. maybe symbolic of evil.

ML: Why were the prostitutes (offered to Haim-Aharon during his agonizing self-discovery quest) so corpulent and repulsive?

AS: I went to brothels…we did research in these territories… I told my casting manager to bring me candidates that were very beautiful…But…these women were very tired, sometimes they are hardworking. Sometimes you see an Orthodox person who goes to brothels…. I tried to make it very simple and humane…eventually you don’t live with prostitutes.

ML: Why, at the end is he fingering the clitoris of the corpse?

AS: It’s a poetic look at life…This is a classic form… a dramatic song…

ML: What was the reaction to the content of the script in the beginning?

AS: Some people—when I was showing my script— told me that there is no hope in the script…that eventually he [Haim-Aharon] will be dead… Everybody was right.

ML: Had anyone in the Orthodox community seen the film?

AS: There were a few screenings in Israel…. 45 screenings for audiences…

“Winner, Best Israeli Feature Film, Best Script, Best Actor, Best Cinematography 2015 Jerusalem Film Festival” opens in New York on June 10th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center followed by a national roll out.

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