Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lemon Tree

Last night Anne and I watched the movie ‘Lemon Tree’ on DVD. I’ve seen some cracker movies recently. This was one of the best. Absorbing! Strong emotions, not the vague desires of ordinary lives, not the happy Disney ending, but an ideological clash, convincing personalities, subtle plot sensitively portrayed, all combined with clever camera work left me at its ending both satisfied and dissatisfied. But moved! It was a film that involved me emotionally.

A Palestinian widow tries to stop her neighbour the Israeli Defence Minister cutting down her lemon tree orchard, a family inheritance. He claims it is necessary for security reasons. Despite going all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court she is unsuccessful. But along the way she gains an unlikely ally – the Minister’s wife. Not that the two women speak, they acknowledge one another but that’s all. The wife leaves her husband. The widow’s left with her stumps.

Both women are subject to the patriarchy. The widow’s elders advise her to give in and accept the offered compensation. The wife is expected to go along with her husband’s wishes. It sounds simple. But the film portrayed it with more complexity. There are subtle hints of sexuality on both sides, the wife has suspicions about her husband’s relationship with his secretary, the widow has thoughts about the handsome lawyer assisting her.

The film is not a polemic. It is more about character. But the geopolitical background cannot be ignored. The power structure is one-sided. And the symbolism of the wall is powerful. What an ugly thing. In the long run walls don’t work. Hadrian’s wall and the Great Wall of China are now tourist attractions. I recall the excitement around the world when the Berlin Wall came down.

What I found most thought-provoking is that the situation looks so insolvable. Both sides are locked into world-views that are hard to budge and appear almost irreconcilable. ‘An eye for an eye’ is embedded in both cultures. The film showed the consequences of such attitudes. The weakening of Obama in the recent American elections will not help the intransigence of both sides. The poor people caught up in events. Ultimately, there are only losers in such situations.

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