Nothing new under the 'Sun'

A solid cast fails to lift Yuval Shafferman's new film above the cliche's, plot holes and general tedium it offers at almost every turn.

shemesh film 88 298 (photo credit: Paralite Productions)
shemesh film 88 298
(photo credit: Paralite Productions)
THINGS BEHIND THE SUN - ** Directed and written by Yuval Shafferman. Hebrew title: Ha Devarim Sheh M'ahorei Ha Shemesh. 100 minutes. In Hebrew. With Assi Dayan, Sandra Sade, Tali Sharon, Tes Hashiloni, Zohar Strauss, Hila Vidor, Rozina Kambus When you go to a horror film, you know what to expect: weird creatures, scary music, gory deaths. With an action film, you'll see car chases, the hero running and leaping and a villain scheming against him. It's the same with all genre films: There are certain conventions that are utterly predictable. So it is with a certain kind of Israeli film, a genre I will dub TAMP, short for Tel Aviv's Miserable People. Yuval Shafferman's just-released Things Behind the Sun is a textbook example of the TAMP genre, and anyone who sees it must be prepared to endure all its hallmarks. The following are a few rules that apply equally to Things Behind the Sun, as well as to a truckload of other TAMP films, including such classics of the genre as Life According to Agfa, Shuroo and Joy: One: It is slow and boring. Long pauses are the rule, as are repetitive scenes, very often set indoors in a cramped apartment. Two: The film does not focus on a single figure but on a host of unpleasant characters, often a family, who constantly fight with each other. In Things, which is about the Grossman family, a vague and ineffectual father, Itzhak (Assi Dayan, who won the Ophir best actor award for his performance here), is at odds with his wife, Smadar (Sade), a painter about to have her first gallery show, which consists entirely of paintings of her family and herself nude, done without their knowledge or permission. Both of them either ignore or spar frequently with their depressed, in-the-closet lesbian daughter, Na'ama (Tali Sharon); their pot-smoking 27-year-old son, Amit (Zohar Strauss), who still lives at home, nursing various resentments; and their chubby 10-year-old daughter, Didush (Tes Hashiloni), who cuts school to sit around watching reality TV and arranging coins featuring pictures of celebrities. The plot, such as it is, is about how the family reacts when Itzhak's father, with whom he has not been in contact for 10 years, is hospitalized in critical condition. Three: A feeling of hopelessness pervades the proceedings. There are no resolutions, no moments of redemption, no catharsis. Four: If the dialogue were not in Hebrew, you would have no idea the film was taking place in Israel. In the Tel Aviv portrayed in these movies, no one ever watches or listens to the news on television or radio, and obviously there is never a discussion of politics. No one ever mentions any wars, the peace process or terrorism, and no one does reserve duty. Occasionally, in such films as Distortion and Frozen Days (an original, interesting film, but one that still fits into the TAMP genre), there is a sudden explosion, indicating there has been a terrorist attack, but people respond to it as they would to a tsunami. There is no discussion of who is responsible, what their motivations might have been or how security procedures could be improved. In Things, however, except for a brief scene showing Didush going through security at her grandfather's hospital, there isn't a moment that couldn't have taken place in France or any other Western country. Five: The acting rises above the level of the script and directing. Assi Dayan, coming off a year of intense performances, both in the innovative television show In Therapy and the movies Out of Sight and Comrade, does solid work here as the baffled and beleaguered patriarch. Zohar Strauss and Tes Hashiloni are particularly good in their roles as well. Six: There will be many familiar faces among the cast. Dayan and Sade previously played husband and wife in Out of Sight, and Sharon was their late daughter's best friend. Seven: Various critical plot points will remain unexplained. As I was leaving the theater after seeing Things, I overheard this exchange between a couple. Woman: You know, I dozed off for a few minutes and woke up in a scene where the wife was sitting at the kitchen table, screaming at someone about something. What was she saying? Man: What difference could it possibly make? Woman: In that scene, did anyone say why the husband and his father hadn't spoken for 10 years? Man: No. Woman: What about the title? Did she say anything that would explain that? Man: No. Where do you want to eat? This brings us to the final rule of TAMP films. Eight: Except for the memory of the boredom you endured while seeing the film, the whole thing disappears quickly from your consciousness. Only seeing another TAMP film may suddenly jog your memory.