Footnote

April 15, 2012 3 Comments

Is the father a “footnote” to his son or is the son a “footnote” to his father?  Joseph Cedar’s poignantly remarkable film “Footnote” plunges us into the heart of the question.   The American-born Israeli director has selected his father-son duo to duke it out over the terrain of Talmudic scholarship….the father, Eliezer, has devoted his ENTIRE life to the elucidation and correction of Talmudic texts, with minimal recognition.  His son, Uriel, has basked in the success of popularized academia…which Eliezer belittles as thinking “light”….still, awards are given and withed and the father and son manuever their way around each other to arrive…where?

Joseph Cedar is not afraid to be sardonic, ironic or touching.  His use of visual images to convey complex emotional states is uncanny.  He is not afraid to use filmic “tricks” to convey information and feeling (and he takes a chance in assuming/hoping that the audience will understand that the contrivances he uses to tell his story remarkably parallels the story itself.

This is a film that captures the heart and conflict in academia and certainly within the family setting.   There are ample political statements as well…it is heartbreaking with just a hint of possibility to overcome…..

This is a brave film, a wonderful film…….certainly a “must see” film……Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week
3 Comments to “Footnote”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    Footnote reminds me of how much worthless, trivial scholarship goes on in academe (I’ve been a professor for 34 years so I speak as an insider!). I say that of the father’s work which is devoted to finding errors in a certain edition of the Talmud. An entire life devoted to such a trivial pursuit is a wasted life. It reminds me of a hypothetical example in Rawls in which he imagines someone spending his whole life counting the number of grass blades in town squares across the country.

    I’m not sure that his son’s work should be characterized as “popular scholarship.” One of his books is entitled Memory and Identity. Sounds like it addresses the role of memory in personal identity, which sounds like a substantive topic applicable, for example, to people with Alzheimer’s. Are they literally the same people they were before they lost their memories?

    I couldn’t sympathize with the father. I could with the son who is willing to give up a lot to guard his father against disappointment. It’s hard to have feelings for someone who takes such great pride in having been mentioned in a footnote in someone else’s big book! It is pathetic that that footnote is so important to the father, but he is not empathetic.

    And, of course, as with A Separation, I thought the inconclusive ending inappropriate, creating frustration where resolution is called for. Why don’t we learn what happens? Why don’t we learn more about the “mystery woman”? There is no reason for the director to tease us instead of teach us.

    If you like footnotes rather than rich, interesting texts, go see this movie. Otherwise, stay home and read a book!

  2. Loretta Polish says:

    Footnote is a biting satire of the well known but rarely dramatized vicious nature of academic jealousies. And when these rivalries intersect with the competitions inherent in father-son relationships, the results are a seething cauldron of layered tensions brilliantly managed by Joseph Caldron who has no fear of taking every moment to its crisis.
    With a backdrop of modern Israel with its omnipresent security checks, a Talmudic scholar, bitter over being repeatedly passed over for the country’s top intellectual prize, is finally recognized. Or is he? Father/son oedipal rivalries play out with a stunning depth of emasculating hatreds and attempts at recompense.
    The layers of claustrophobia, the small size of Israel, the hothouse tinderbox of family relationships, and the inbred rivalries of academia, all contribute to the vortex. There is much to discuss in this stimulating, brilliant film.

  3. Martin says:

    “Footnote” is a compelling film with a conclusion that at first feels unsatisfying, but requires continuing thought and discussion (the hallmark of memorable). With its inconclusion, it sneaks up as personal story rather than a vicarious experience. The sequence in which the son sees his father with the “mystery woman” is brilliant. It begins with stripping the son naked (bare truth), then clothing him in a fencing costume (symbolic of father/son relationship), and has him view the scene threw a screen mask (through a glass darkly). The sons judgement (infidelity) tells more about the son than the father (particularly when paired with the son/wife pillow talk revealing the wife’s assessment of the son’s fidelity as cowardice). The father’s obssession with the minutiae of Talmudic diction (as opposed to meaning) reminds me of Dr. Chumley’s epiphany when realizing the truth of the invisible, but real, Harvey: “Fly specks, fly specks! I’ve been spending my life among fly specks while miracles have been leaning on lampposts at 18th and Fairfax!” “Footnote” is a nettling portrayal of fathers and sons, and probably mothers and daughters.

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