Movie Review: Striking a chord

’A Quiet Heart’ evinces the pulse of Jerusalem.

January 26, 2017 15:51
3 minute read.
’A Quiet Heart’

’A Quiet Heart’. (photo credit: MOSH MICHAELI)

Hebrew title: Lev Shaket Meod
With Ania Bukstein, Uri Gottlieb, Giorgio Lupano
Running time: 92 minutes.
In Hebrew and English. Check with theaters for subtitle information.

Eitan Anner’s A Quiet Heart is a low-key film that captures the atmosphere of Jerusalem beautifully (as few films have) through the story of a young pianist from Tel Aviv who moves to the capital. Her journey is a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, as she becomes involved in conflicts and communities she barely knew existed before and redefines herself along the way.

The film anchored by a subtle and moving performance by Ania Bukstein, an appealing young actress with a distinctive beauty.

Millions around the world know her from her Game of Thrones role as Vinvara in Season 6. In A Quiet Heart, she fulfills the promise she has shown in her best Israeli film roles, notably Avi Nesher’s The Secrets and Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Rabies.

Bukstein plays Naomi, who moves to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, abandoning the successful musical career her parents had apparently pushed her into. Looking at an apartment in the Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood that is being rented after its previous occupant died suddenly, she decides to move in immediately. There is a piano in the apartment, but she doesn’t want to look at it. She carries little with her but her beloved cat and a small suitcase.

Naomi has barely unpacked before she finds herself embroiled in local conflicts. Her neighbors are an ultra-Orthodox family with many kids, where the strong-willed widowed mother tries to convince her to get a new mezuza — implying that the previous resident was not to be trusted — and to give piano lessons to her young son, who is musically gifted. Not a moment later, she gets a visit from a secular neighborhood activist who warns her that the neighborhood has become a virtual war zone.

Out on the street, a sinister parking inspector (Uri Gottlieb) keeps ticketing her car, since she still has a Tel Aviv parking permit.

Getting a job in a dusty music library at a radio station, Naomi tries to keep to herself but finds that the outside world continually breaches the walls she has attempted to build. The security guard at her office starts taking an interest in her, while her father and former boyfriend show up to try to convince her to return to Tel Aviv.

Even the ultra-Orthodox kid from next door manages to sneak into the apartment by climbing through the window after walking along a ledge so he can play the piano.

As Naomi goes through the neighborhood, she finds her way to a monastery in Ein Kerem, where a sexy monk named Fabrizio (Giorgio Lupano) starts to teach her to play the organ, and she gradually finds her way back to making music. But her contact with the monk causes her haredi neighbors to harass her, and she begins to fear that the previous tenant’s death was no accident.

This engaging film suffers from a bit of an identity complex. At times, it seems to be influenced strongly by Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, as all kinds of creepy incidents take place in and around the apartment, and the parking inspector is sometimes so sinister that he seems almost satanic. It also wants to be a contemporary story of religious conflict in the capital. At other times, especially with Fabrizio, it’s almost as if it were turning into a classic starcrossed love story. Some of the plot lines are very dark and complex but are resolved a little too neatly.

While I applaud writer/director Eitan Anner for not giving Naomi a too clear, melodramatic back story, there are gaps in the conception of the character. For example, I would have liked to know a little more about what music meant to Naomi and why she chose to give it up.

But overall, it is a rewarding film, one that highlights the contradictions in the soul of the city in which it takes place. The contrast between the beauty of the rolling hills between Kiryat Hayovel and Ein Kerem with the ugliness of the housing project where Naomi lives reflects the struggle in the heroine’s heart.

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