Bonding and bickering

Depressed souls populate ‘The Pracht Inn’

April 15, 2015 16:01
3 minute read.
‘The Pracht Inn’ movie

‘The Pracht Inn’ movie. (photo credit: PR)

The film The Pracht Inn is a dour, earnest adaptation of Aharon Appelfeld’s novel Night after Night. It’s about a group of people who have experienced a great deal of suffering and who are deeply depressed. While many of the characters are interesting, the movie reflects their depressed mood all too well. However, anyone who has lived in Israel for any length of time will recognize younger versions of their elderly neighbors in this film.

The movie is about a very quirky group of residents of the titular boarding house in Jerusalem. They are Holocaust survivors who both bond and bicker. The can’t shake off their memories and see moving on and building new lives in Israel as abandoning their past and letting go of their loved ones who didn’t make it. In the Pracht Inn, they find a microcosm of the European world they left behind, ruled by the cold and unforgiving Mrs. Pracht (Michaela Eshet), whose meanness reminds them that although they have escaped the concentration camps, they still have to cope with cruelty and injustice.

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The central character is Manfred (Tzahi Grad). A widower, he has some money from selling his apartment. But instead of giving it to his grown son or spending it on Tzila (Yael Toker), a woman he has just started seeing, he wants to donate it to the fund for the preservation of Yiddish culture run by the boarders at the Pracht Inn. He hurts his son and girlfriend by insisting that all he cares about is Yiddish, although he doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in literature. He is stubborn and cold. His son loves animals and is trying to start an animal shelter, but Manfred dismisses the dream as nonsense.

Manfred has a daughter who has some kind of mental disability and lives in an institution near the sea, and his tender side seems to come out only on the rare occasions when he sees her.

The other residents at Pracht are a bit livelier. Kirtzel (Vladimir Friedman) is a hard-drinking artist who lives with his favorite model (Sigalit Fuchs). Another young woman was raised in a convent in Germany and only found out she was Jewish after the war ended.

She still loves Jesus, even though she is pregnant by one of the boarders. Marina Maximilian Blumin plays a sexy torch singer at the coffee shop where the boarders gather.

The boarders all suffer from insomnia and pass their nights playing cards and drinking. All of them are united against Mrs.

Pracht, who is dead set against their having any fun. Behind her back, they acquire dozens of Yiddish books, which she sees simply as a breeding ground for vermin. The conflict between Mrs.

Pracht and the boarders gradually escalates into violence.

The film is set in a bygone era, when many people had little more than their reparations to pay their bills, and even a boarding-house owner such as Mrs. Pracht is broke. The boarders’ passion for Yiddish is both a real love for their mother tongue and a desire to hold on to their identity, to be the people they were before the war.

Although the actors are all quite good, the characters aren’t fully realized. Appelfeld reveals his protagonists’ inner lives in his novels, but in the movie we don’t really get to know them from the inside out. They are types more than people.

Still, several actors shine in their roles. Michaela Eshet, who made such a strong impression as the widowed mother in Joseph Cedar’s 2004 film Campfire has appeared in just a few movies during the past decade. She imbues Mrs.

Pracht with a quiet intensity, and her soft voice makes her utterances even more hateful.

Vladimir Friedman is enjoyably outrageous as the painter.

Tzahi Grad gives a glum performance in a glum role. While a cold, dull man can be the subject of a lively movie, it takes a great deal of artfulness to pull this off. The writer/director Yarom, who has previously made short films and documentaries, clearly has talent, but she has chosen a very difficult literary adaptation for her first feature film.

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