seven minutes in heaven 248 88.
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SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN (ISR)
Directed by Omri Givon.
Written by Givon and Nimrod Eldar.
Hebrew title: Sheva Dakot Be'Gan Eden.
In Hebrew, check with theaters about English subtitles.
It's surprising how few Israeli films have dealt with the aftermath of terror attacks. In the surreal Danny Lerner's Frozen Days, a bombing derails the action midway, and in Eytan Fox's The Bubble, a bombing is the inevitable ending of the story. But no film that I can remember deals realistically with the grim details of what it's like to live through one of these attacks.
That is, until Omri Givon's depiction in Seven Minutes in Heaven.
This mesmerizing and at moments upsetting film opens with a young woman caring for a young man (Nadav Netz) in a coma. She shaves him, washes him, and finally, lies down and naps with him. At home in her dark apartment, we see that her hands and torso are covered by a flesh-colored fabric, a sign that she has suffered serious burns. Her phone rings and she doesn't answer. The machine picks up. The message still gives two names: "You've reached Galia and Oren's apartment." A doctor's voice tells Galia that Oren's state has deteriorated overnight and urges her to come to the hospital as soon as possible.
That's the set-up for the film, and it tells you most of what you need to know about Galia (Reymond Amsalem). She lives alone in the cluttered apartment she once shared with Oren and seems to do little but visit doctors. Her back, arms, and neck were horribly burned in the attack and even now, a year later, she is still in tremendous pain and discomfort. The attack was just around Purim and it's been a year. Now, children in costume are all over the streets again.
Galia decides that she won't have peace till she learns some details about what happened to her that day, which she doesn't remember. She turns to Magen David Adom and begins talking to paramedics who were there, hoping that hearing more about the attack will help soothe her. While walking in the Mahane Yehuda market one day, she begins to panic. Boaz (Eldad Fribas), a gentle young man passing by, helps her. They become friends and she starts opening up to him. But is she in any condition for a new relationship? She can't think about anything but her last days with her boyfriend, and what happened during the bombing.
This might sound grim and, in a sense, it is, but it's also real and that's what makes it moving. These attacks are in the news for a day or two, but for those who either lose people they love or experience the horror themselves, it never ends. You can see how you don't "get over" something like this. If you live through it, it changes you and this film explores how it changes Galia.
There are a few surprises in the plot that I'd rather not give away. Without a little suspense, this film would be even bleaker than it should be. But in the last third, the script resorts to not one but two deus ex machina conveniences that are unconvincing and distract from the stark intensity of the story. Director Givon also uses the technique of keeping all the color washed out and muted throughout the film and then shifts to vivid hues only at the very end, when Galia can recall the attack. While this is theatrically effective, I was conscious of it as a gimmick. Nevertheless, the low-toned scenes do evoke Jerusalem in all its workday late-winter grimness in a way that few films ever have.
Reymond Amsalem gives an extraordinary performance in the lead. She isn't afraid to bring out Galia's unsympathetic side and doesn't play her as a spotless victim. Amsalem and the director seem to be conveying that, while we can feel sorry for her, we can also get to know her as a complex character. So we can see how even before the attack she was self-centered and took Oren's love for granted. Amsalem has had several high-profile roles, in such films as Three Mothers and Lebanon, in which she plays a panicked civilian in the film's most crucial scene. She has also worked abroad, in the Reese Witherspoon film Rendition. This most recent film, however, should bring her the acclaim and recognition she deserves.
Seven Minutes in Heaven is not an easy film to watch, and it isn't without flaws, but it's tremendously moving.