“An Israeli Love Story”

The film “Sipur Ahava Eretz Israeli” is based on a mono-drama written by Pnina Gary. It is a true love story which took place in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel. 1947 is captured well, both politically and personally. Our protagonist, Margalit, ( Adi Bielsky) is a young 18 year old, still living at home and dreaming of an acting career. Her love interest, Eli, ( Aviv Alush)  is 24 and a soldier. Eli Ben-Tzvi’s father will become the second President of Israel. Pnina Gary is now 90, and an acclaimed Israeli actress. In “An Israeli Love Story”, she is Margalit.

Margalit’s relationship with her parents, who are immigrants from the Ukraine is sweetly well-developed. She is a typical teen with flawed social planning skills, and likewise, adept at  last minute changes. Margalit thinks nothing of bringing a strange boy, who she just met home for dinner. Since, his car broke down he is offered to spend the night in one of the outbuildings. Her father sees immediately how taken she is with him. He tells his refugee stories about being with the Russians and having to blow their soup to move the worms and insects away. Margalit can not wait before sharing this with her girl friend. They laugh together about predictable parents.

Scenes with the bee hives and her father’s entrepreneurialism, as well as, her mother’s cooking show Margalit as a loving daughter, who is supported by her parents’ love. The holding of the shoulders takes on touching significance throughout the film.

Many of the camera shots have Margalit with her back to a wall. Initially, before the beginning flashback, we see and hear her reading a letter from Eli’s inconsolable mother, Rachel. When we hear of their cherished bond as lovers of Eli, we know that a sad end awaits us.

Dan Wolman’s direction plays well with metaphors of earnest action and impassioned imagination even when one seems backed against an immovable force. The tone is one of dark tranquility meshed with a call to live.

Refugees disembark in the dead of night, and Eli helps in the boat transport. Margalit sees him with a female worker and dismayed, botches her efforts to bring blankets as directed. She is inefficient at humanitarian efforts when her heart is broken. She opines dramatically to her friend, “ I don’t exist for him!” Young girls are understood by both the screenwriter and the director, here.

The cinematography is best during the courtship, which does ensue after many attempts on Margalit’s and her friend’s part. Reflections in moving bus windows of the trip to the kibbutz , and scenes in the orchard, the  hayloft, and the two on horseback  are lovely.

Major themes of war and peace are shown through the recitation of poetry. Biblical verses take on chilling revenge pronouncements: “The sword of Saul return not empty.” The humanities are shown as effective agents of social change on the more peaceful side.

Scenes where Arabs and Jews mingle and interact are shown. Ironically, trespassing boundaries cause the most contention. The herds of Bedouin sheep keep eating the kibbutz planted vegetables.

The kibbutz living is hard on Margalit. She does not like the sharing of property, whereas Eli believes that private property would ruin everything about the communal structure of the kibbutz. Eli is patient to a point with Margalit. He admits that sharing does not come naturally. Eli is committed to the kibbutz, and he tells Margalit in no uncertain terms that he is part of the people living here.

“ I am not leaving this place.” They agree to take a break to think over their commitments.

An actor in Haifa, who Margalit has admired openly after attending his play, invites her to see a favorite singer. He has predatory intentions, and she is embarrassed by her innocence in almost being duped.

Eli comes for Margalit at her parents’ home, and she is in Tel Aviv. She later goes to him and they reunite.

Preparations for Eli and Margalit’s wedding is full of embroidery, baking, cracking eggs, music and high expectations. Listening to the country by country vote on Israeli statehood is a nice touch. Over the radio we hear, “ France, yes; Greece, no; Haiti, yes; Brazil, yes; Yugoslavia, abstention ; United States, yes; etc… History is being made while the Bedouin flocks are in the fields again. When Eli and brigade leave to chase them off, Eli is cautious. They are ambushed.

Coffins and a stoic graveside scene is next. Margalit drops to her knees and is raised up by her father as he holds her shoulders to steady her.

At her theater sessions, Margalit has directed her troupe to practice again and again: not only with words, but with action. When one of her key actors was shot on patrol, the theatre troupe had asked for a break. Margalit, like a soldier, told  them that they would  carry on in the same way with the same tempo. Life would  go on. This is true as the film ends, also. Margalit is seen at the rural bus stop, ready to begin again.