Posted on September 14, 2021 at 11:00 am Updated
September 14, 2021 at 10:38 a.m.
Jury Prize at Cannes, “Le Genou d’Ahed” is a vibrant plea for freedom. Nervous and intense.
Film after film, Nadav Lapid casually settles down as one of the most important filmmakers. His previous film, Synonyms, an earthquake, left the Berlinale with the Golden Bear in 2019. With it, he finds himself in competition for the first time in Cannes, and he leaves with a jury prize. , in our eyes below the strength of the film, but, nice compensation, shared with the immense Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Ahed’s Knee, promised by the title of the Israeli’s fourth feature film, is a red herring. This is just the name of a pending project, inspired by the real life of young Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, imprisoned in 2018 following a demonstration in the occupied territories, and which an Israeli MP threatened to shoot in the kneecap to “assign him to residence for good”.
It is with a casting aiming to find the suitable actress that Lapid begins his film, where he stages a silent alter ego in a handful of thunderous scenes that set the tone: mise en abyme, side roads, snooping camera and furious humor will be the watchwords of this radical essay (undoubtedly even more than its previous ones), which is saying a lot.
After his crazy introduction, the director makes a first turn in his story, which has many. He takes his character of atrabilaire filmmaker, named Y. (Avshalom Pollak), on a desert trip for the presentation of one of his films (we guess that it is The Teacher, second feature of Lapid) in a country library, at the invitation of its young and attractive manager, Yahalom (Nur Fibak). But the screening is not going to go as planned …
The film is thus part of this meta genre (let’s call it “festival autofiction”) in which, among others, the director Hong Sang-soo was particularly illustrated (Alone on the beach at night, Le Jour d ‘ after…) – the comparison stops there, however, as Lapid’s style is at odds with that of the South Korean.
The first proceeds in effect by convulsions and permanent gear changes, the camera seeming to follow its own desires, without its sometimes very sudden movements, almost like tics, having no obvious justification.
What does it matter: what Lapid makes us feel here with incredible force, are the jolts, the rage of a worried soul that can no longer bear the hypocrisy and cowardice in the face of the coming fascism – which is probably already there. -, and who also suffers from the loss of his mother, Era, his accomplice in the work, and to whom he does honor here. More than a tribute, Ahed’s Knee even appears as a heartbreaking attempt to bring her back to life through the incantations of fiction.
Along with this intimate dimension, the film is a scathing attack of rare violence against the policy (cultural, but not only) of the State of Israel, accused by the filmmaker of suffocating its citizens, of killing in the egg all creativity and, beyond that, all possibility of humanism. We knew Lapid was out of touch with his country of origin (and angry with his adopted country, France, as Synonyms showed), but here he is driving the point home.
As always with Lapid, he does so with a poetic verve, a freedom of tone and a very unique energy, opening a thousand reflective fronts, until a chilling finale, which asks more questions than it answers. .
The Knee of Ahed by Nadav Lapid, with Avshalom Pollak and Nur Fibak (Fr., Isr., All., 2021, 1 h 40). In theaters September 15