The Israel Film Festival: Suicide

After the delightful Going of Age comedy Hunting Elephants, our next IFF film was Suicide, a noir-ish myster/thriller that actually is mysterious and thrilling, told in parallel timelines (as is the fashion these days).

When the movie opens, an attractive woman is setting a dead man and a business on fire. It turns out the dead man is her husband, and the cop’s ruling is, you guessed it, suicide. The “current” timeline has to do with a quirky police detective (Dror Keir, who played Meir The Librarian in the excellent 2010 Israeli film Matchmaker), interrogating the wife (Mali Levi, about whom much ado was made regarding co-starring with Brad Pitt in World War Z, said role never materializing), and trying to suss out a truth nobody wants him to learn.

I’ve commented regularly on the quality of the characterization of Israeli films, and this film is an interesting example of what I mean: In this kind of film (noir) the characters do not emote in any big ways. Their lives are threatened; they’re in races against time; they have to lie in front of a bunch of rabbis—and at no time are we allowed to see what they’re thinking and feeling.

A lot of times, as a result, the characterizations of these sorts of films end up flat, resorting to archetypes. The gangster, the hardboiled detective, the cynical cop, the moll, and so on. Not so here. The story moves along two timelines: the post-fire timeline, and the timeline leading up to the fire, where we see a picture of a man in financial trouble to the mob, the wife who seems to be passionately in love with him, the brutal gangster with a code, and a situation where even the peripheral characters all have backstories ultimately explaining their roles in the drama.

On the other hand, it’s so tightly constructed, and the characters drawn so strongly, that the mystery is pretty well obvious by the time of the reveal, with the only real mystery being in the details. What’s funny about that is that the police detective is putting it all together at the climactic moment, and you’re sitting there (or I was, anyway) thinking, “Man, this guy is slow!”

Of course, the detective has none of the back info we have, so it’s perfectly appropriate but it’s kind of funny from a narrative standpoint to have the audience be aware of everything while the detective is still just piecing things together.

Good film. We both liked. The Boy noted that family was a theme pervading the movie, which is true, and also very unusual for noir. The IFF scored two for two at this point.

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