Noam Kaplan looks back on ‘The Future’

A tense psychological thriller, and based on true events, the film grapples with the human element and its role in terrorism and its prevention.

 A scene from 'The Future' (photo credit: NATI LEVI)
A scene from 'The Future'
(photo credit: NATI LEVI)

‘The conflict is between people, technology won’t solve it, these are themes I was playing with,” said Noam Kaplan, speaking about his latest movie, The Future, as he explained how he came up with this quirky, cerebral story that blends politics, psychological drama, and a technology-based approach to stopping terrorism. The movie will be released in theaters throughout Israel on August 10

“Slowly, it became a female-centric story about a woman looking at the past, about the background of the crime, but also about the past of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict.”

Noam Kaplan

The Future, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last spring and which also played at the Jerusalem Film Festival, has a complex, twisty plot that is hard to summarize. Its protagonist, Nurit Bloch (Reymonde Amsallem, who just received an Ophir Award nomination for her performance) is a very driven criminal profiler who has come up with an algorithm that successfully predicts how and when people will try to carry out acts of terrorism. It’s a formula that, naturally, is a game changer, until it fails miserably, when Yaffa (Samar Qupty, who is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Ophir Award), a young Palestinian woman, assassinates the Israeli minister of Space and Tourism at a conference in a hotel. (This isn’t a spoiler, the movie opens with a reenactment of the crime.)

To figure out how this happened, Nurit interrogates Yaffa intensively in her home office. While Nurit is assured on the job, she is insecure in her personal life. She is married to Yoram (Yossi Marshek), who is heard but not seen in the movie, a man who is passionate about breeding bees but doesn’t seem to be much of a presence in her life. Over 40, she can’t carry a pregnancy to term and is undergoing in vitro fertilization treatments and searching for a surrogate mother. 

Yaffa, who is beautiful and defiant, picks up on her insecurities and taunts Nurit, but the profiler has more than a few tricks up her sleeve. Much of the movie consists of long, intense scenes between the two actresses, and as the story unfolds, it turns out that the terrorist and the profiler have more in common than it seemed at first. For one thing, Nurit and Yaffa both struggle with their relationships to their demanding, unsupportive mothers. Just as Nurit is about to give up hope for finding a surrogate, Maor (Dar Zuzovsky), suddenly shows up and offers to carry her child, disarming Nurit with her relentless positivity. All this takes place just as an Israeli rocket is about to land on the moon in a costly space mission designed to bolster Israeli pride.

Kaplan, whose previous feature, Manpower, was a similarly ambitious, wide-ranging look at how foreign workers are changing the face of Israel, explained how all the themes in The Future come together to create a tense drama that is a portrait of contemporary Israel.

 Noam Kaplan at the Tribeca film festival (credit: OHAD KAB)
Noam Kaplan at the Tribeca film festival (credit: OHAD KAB)

Kaplan's artistic inspirations

His initial inspiration was the murder of former Tourism Minister Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi in 2001 in Jerusalem. Kaplan obtained the records of the interrogation of the suspects and pored over them. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) interrogators were all men, except a single woman named Nurit. 

“It's no coincidence that the profiler in the movie is called Nurit,” Kaplan said. He wrote a screenplay about the killing that did not get made and he put it aside. Years later, when he went back to the transcripts of the case, he noticed that the lone female interrogator “spoke to them about their mothers, about their wives, about problems with their marriages, with their sexuality, she got under their skin, to the heart, until eventually, they asked for what they called a ‘regular interrogation.’” But it was her interrogation that elicited their confessions.

At a later stage, Kaplan added the futuristic element of the algorithm, he explained. 

“But the basis for the story was this woman and this emotional interrogation... That was the hook for the movie, an interrogation that was more of a look into their souls than it was about the crime.”

Since he started with a female investigator, he decided that the murderer should also be a woman. 

“Slowly, it became a female-centric story about a woman looking at the past, about the background of the crime, but also about the past of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict,” Kaplan said. In the early drafts, she was a childless woman who pretended to have children, but later on, he developed the idea of her going through the IVF and the surrogate process to add complexity to the story of a woman, “who in a way is looking for a daughter and a younger woman whose future is already behind her,” he said, referencing one of the film’s most memorable lines.

Kaplan said he felt very lucky with his two lead actresses, Amsallem and Qupty. 

“I think we won the lottery with the actresses, they were so expressive in their scenes together.” 

While they rehearsed together, Kaplan kept them apart when they weren’t working, to maintain the distance between the characters. 

“On screen they had equal time, an equal frame,” and he was pleased with their long scenes together, which form the emotional heart of the movie.

Kaplan also tried to get inside Yaffa’s head and to look at Israeli society from an outsider’s point of view, which is reflected by some of her observations about several quintessential Israeli customs that those living here tend to take for granted. These include the fact that secular Israelis often name their children after flowers and trees. Kaplan realized that could seem strange after he made Manpower, and an African actor asked him, after his daughter was born, “What flower will she be named after?” Kaplan’s daughter, in fact, is named Alona (oak) and the actor told him, “With you [Israelis], everyone is named after flowers.” 

“It was ironic and funny,” Kaplan said.

Another irony is that, although many critics writing about The Future make comparisons to the Steven Spielberg movie Minority Report, about a society in which all criminal acts can be foreseen and even thoughts about a crime can lead to prosecution, that movie wasn’t on Kaplan’s radar at all when he wrote the script.

“I never thought about it, it wasn’t a reference for me at all,” he said. Instead, Todd Haynes’s movie, Safe, with Julianne Moore, was an inspiration. Safe is a 1995 film about a suburban homemaker who gradually becomes so sensitive to chemicals, her world narrows into a reality that becomes eerie.

The algorithm element to the plot lends a touch of science fiction, but in the film, the human factor is front and center. 

“The algorithm failed because Yaffa is too complicated. It couldn’t understand the soul of a real person,” he said. Adding that as a society, our focus on technology is part of what keeps us from solving conflicts, he mused, “There is always some technological solution, but talking and recognition, we haven’t gotten to that yet.”