Sometimes you have to invest yourself

Director and screenwriter of 'Death in Love,' Boaz Yakin admits he went through an emotional roller coaster working on the Holocaust-themed film.

Boaz Yakin 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Boaz Yakin 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
No one could accuse Boaz Yakin of taking the easy route to fame and fortune. While the 42-year-old New York-born director has put out his fair share of consumer-oriented works, his latest film hardly panders to the most palatable form of entertainment. Mind you, you wouldn't really expect a movie entitled Death in Love to offer much in the way of pre-packaged titillation. Yakin, whose parents were born in Israel, is here to support his latest creation - showing at 10 p.m. on Monday at the Jerusalem Cinematheque as part of the Jewish Experience section of the Jerusalem Film Festival - which explores the damaging after-effects of a woman's Holocaust experiences on her later life, both as a mother and a wife. Yakin pulls no punches here and admits to going through something of an emotional roller coaster during the course of the project. "It is the most personal movie I've ever made," he said when we met at the Mount Zion Hotel, a stone's throw from the Cinematheque. "It was, by far, the most intuitive, flow-of-consciousness thing I've ever written." Besides occupying the director's chair, Yakin is also responsible for the screenplay and coproduced the film with his wife Alma Harel. Yakin's Israeli and Jewish background naturally comes into play here, but there is a pertinent professional aspect which received some badly needed attention with Death in Love. "This film came out of years of frustration, being forced in a way to make more commercial films, and I reached the point when I felt I had to make a film that showed the kind of emotional and esthetic approach you can do in films, which you don't find very much these days in the States. It's become the realm of European films, Israeli films, films from any other country except for the US. In the US, hardly anyone makes really interesting, personal and difficult films about anything - not just about the Holocaust." While that kind of approach may satisfy Yakin's creative requirements, it doesn't exactly make the guys with big bucks sit up and beg to get in on the act. "I contacted the people who normally fund my movies, and they said: 'We like what you do, and we'll help finance your work - but not this one.' Alma and I put a lot of our own savings into the movie." BY NOW, one gets the clear idea that Yakin does not have a propensity for word mincing, and he is not afraid to walk into potential minefields. "As far as the Holocaust is concerned, for me, in this film, the Holocaust is specific, but it's also a metaphor. It is specific in terms of me, obviously, dealing with family issues here, but for me the Holocaust is very much a metaphor for trauma and our relationship with trauma and our own pain. I think the film is specific and very Jewish, but I feel the film is about the cycle of pain - not just for Jews. It's also about being a Jewish male outside Israel, which I am, but the Holocaust has an effect on the mentality of people in Israel, in a very very different way than it has on Diaspora Jewry and the identity of Diaspora Jewry. "In fact, Jewish identity is almost defined by the Holocaust. I have always wished that the Diaspora Jew had a stronger identification with the Israeli experience and less of identification with the Holocaust experience. It's the culmination of the apogee of Jewish victimization." So, how exactly is watching Death in Love going to help Jews get past feeling victimized? "It's an exploration of the detrimental effects of that," Yakin proffers. "It's about the sadomasochistic relationship we have with our own pain. There is a kind of a sick pleasure at being so special that everybody wants to kill you." Ever the realist, Yakin is not sure everyone is going to come out of Death in Love feeling good. "I'm sure some of the audience in Israel won't like it, and Israelis are generally not too reserved about their responses. It's a controversial film in that people don't want to look at victims as having anything to with their own victimization. My father had some reservations about it, and I don't think my mother will watch it. I don't offer solutions in this film. It's about the failure of the family, and the failure of changing your past. But I hope people come out of the film with some positive thought process."