Step into ‘Afterthought’

Director Elad Keidan talks to the ‘Post’ about his award-winning film that follows two men wandering up and down staircases in Haifa.

ACTORS ITAY Tiran (left) and Uri Klauzner star in the award-winning ‘Afterthought.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
ACTORS ITAY Tiran (left) and Uri Klauzner star in the award-winning ‘Afterthought.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sitting with Elad Keidan, the director of the recently released movie, Afterthought, at an outdoor cafe in Tel Aviv’s Sarona neighborhood quickly turns into something similar to a scene from his film. In Afterthought, two men wander up and down staircases in Haifa, in a day that changes their lives in some ways, and leaves them exactly the same in others.
“Where happiness lies is maybe in the letting go of the idea of choice and enjoying small moments,” he says, as we watch families in a playground, and as if on cue a clown enters. “You watch existence sparkle....
For me, reality is very much like being underwater, the experience of watching is like a marine observatory. We’re all living on a coral reef.”
We watch the clown struggle to get the kids’ attention, and Keidan likens Afterthought to “screwball comedies of the ’70s, like early Woody Allen and Robert Altman movies.... I’m not taking it too seriously although it has serious aspirations.”
But other people are taking Afterthought very seriously. It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and won the prize for Best Israeli Feature Film at the Haifa International Film Festival. Keidan’s short film, Anthem, which was his graduation project from the Sam Spiegel School for Film and Television in Jerusalem, won the Cinéfondation Prize at Cannes in 2008. In spite of all these accolades, he punctuates his philosophizing on the nature of filmmaking with playful humor, the kind you find in Woody Allen movies.
He also names Éric Rohmer, Abbas Kiarostami and Luis Buñuel as influences.
He says he did not realize the parallels between the plot of Afterthought and James Joyce’s Ulysses until a friend pointed them out.
“He said it reminded him of Ulysses: One of the characters is young, one is old, you’ve got the older guy with a s***y job, his wife is a musician who is cheating on him, the younger guy is a poet who doesn’t know what to do with his life,” he says.
Keidan, who hadn’t read the novel and wasn’t consciously drawing on the plot when he wrote the screenplay, acknowledges that Joyce’s theme must have influenced him.
“You capture what you can capture,” he says. “But Afterthought is not exactly stream of consciousness... you can’t afford to do real stream of consciousness [on an Israeli budget].... It was the idea of trying to capture a wide texture of things, instead of being reduced several objects and getting a nice, clean closeup. I used the mechanical motion of them going up and down the mountain to capture small, fleeting experiences....
The two characters represent two different sides to my own character.”
He hopes that the loosely plotted movie, which stars Uri Klauzner as the older man and Itay Tiran as the poet, will strike a chord with local audiences.
“Ironically, at Cannes, I realized how Israeli my movie is,” he says. “It does communicate very specifically Israeli details. I have a soft spot in my heart for local films and what they reveal about culture.”
Keidan, who was born in Haifa, says he would like to write fiction and plays as well as making films. He is not from an artistic family: His father works in a desalinization plant and his mother is a secretary. Married to a fellow Sam Spiegel graduate and the father of two, he teaches film at a high school.
He’s got ideas for nearly every kind of artistic project, and even has some thoughts on creating a “secular religion... where the saints will be scientists and philosophers who were misunderstood in their time.”
But the thoughts of religion pass, and his mind is quickly back onto filmmaking.
Looking up at a large construction site on one side of the playground, he muses, “That would be a nice frame. You get a shot of this huge concrete building, there will be 10,000 details you can focus on. There is a tension between the infinite capacity to experience and the limited capacity to express, and the limited capacity of the audience to absorb.”
Keidan has chosen the difficult task of exploring this tension, and hopes that his humor will draw in audiences both here and around the world.
‘Afterthought’ is currently showing at cinemas throughout the country.