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Movie Review of A Tale of Love and Darkness on Netflix-Based on Amoz Oz's Memoirs of His Childhood in Jerusalem and Establishment of the State of Israel

by Rhonda Spivak, June 2, 2017

Anyone who has ever read a book by celebrated Israeli novelist Amos Oz, probably will be interested in the film about his  childhood "A Tale of Love and Darkness" which  came out on netflix in 2016.The film is about Amos Oz's quest to understand his mother's life and death against the background of the establishment of the State of Israel. At the outset I should say that I have never read Oz's book "A tale of Love and Darknes, on which the movie is based, such that I do not know how the movie compares to the book.
 
In 1952, Amos Oz's took her own life in her sister's flat on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, overdosing on medication prescribed to treat her depression. At the time a debate was raging in Israeli society about whether Israel should demand and accept reparations from Germany. The left took the pragmatic approach supporting the notion that Germany should pay the cost that Israel would have to bear to absorb the survivors.The right on the other hand declared it was immoral to accept the reparations.
 
A couple of years later, Oz, at age 15, broke with his more right-wing father and went, by himself, to live on a kibbutz.
 
The  movie begins with  Oz's growing up in Jerusalem in the years before Israeli statehood with his academic father and Fania, his,  mother, who tells him imaginative stories peopled with giants, witches, fairies, tales , which no doubt helped to nourish the budding writer in her son.
 
Oz's book, A Tale of Love and Darkness, was thought to be the biggest-selling literary work in Israeli history, such that it is not surprising it was made into a movie. The movie explores why his mother killed herself, and looks at the effect on  her sensitive, intelligent son , who grew up in Jerusalem against the background of the waning  years of the British mandate and the outbreak of the war of independence. Oz's parents moved to Palestine from Europe during the 1930s and 40s to escape persecution. His father Arieh was cautiously hopeful for the future but his mother Fania yearned for more. The terror of the war and running from home had been followed by the tedium of everyday life, and their poverty, which weighed heavily on Fania's spirit. Unhappy in her marriage and feeling intellectually stifled, she would make up stories of adventures (like treks across the desert) to cheer herself up and entertain her 10-year-old son Amos. He became enraptured when she read him poetry and spoke  about the meaning of words and language.
 
There are many poignant and touching moments in this film, such that I would recommend seeing it. Although , if truth be told, there are some moments of the movie that  I found to be too slow moving, and would have wished that the pace was picked up. The movie is in Hebrew with English subtitles. I listened to the Hebrew, such that I can not say if I would have found the movie as good if I had to rely on reading the English subtitles. 
 
 
 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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