A Tale of Love and Darkness (♦♦♦)

Old Amos tells the story of his mother Fania (Natalie Portman), her upbringing in Rovno, Poland, in a well-off family, of the pogroms against the Jewish people that spread all over Europe with the rise of the Nazis which made her leave Rovno towards Jerusalem with her mother and three sisters. Old Amos reminisces about the stories Fania used to concoct for him while still a boy, and finally he wonders if it were the violence of Israel's first years as a nation, poverty, bouts of melancholy, and pain that broke his mother's spirit and drove her to an early end.
Natalie Portman directed, wrote the screenplay, and starred as leading lady in this adaptation of Amos Oz' bestselling autobiography A Tale of Love and Darkness. While Portman's performance is good, it is a little too subdued for my taste—certainly not on the same level as in Black Swan and The Other Woman (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits). It suits the story, but I wish she would have explored her role more, or that the screenplay would have revealed what ailed her. I feel that without the explanation of Amos at the end I would not have been able to figure out what caused her melancholy.
The narrative was linear for the most part, but the stories Fania told her young son came visually alive as well. I did like the narration style, and enjoyed Old Amos' voice over at the start of the film, but I didn't feel as invested in the characters or their plight as I thought I would be.
Favorite Quote:
"Many things have happened in Jerusalem. The city was destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed, and rebuilt again. Conqueror after conqueror came, ruled for a while, left behind some walls, some towers, some cracks in the stones, and then disappeared, like the morning mist down the hillslopes. Jerusalem is a black widow, who devours her lovers while they are still inside her..."

Comments

  1. I don't recall hearing of this movie at all. I depend on you to keep me up to date on the film world. This one sounds like a bit of a downer - very subdued. But I do usually enjoy Natalie Portman's performances.

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    1. It was a bit subdued, which surprised me because she has become a tremendous actress.

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  2. Hmm. When did Portman do this one? It seems she really got involved in the project. I don't think I'd even heard about this film. Despite her pregnancy or baby, seems like she's working nonstop. ps. Interesting new look on your site, I like it.

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    1. This one is from last year as well; perhaps before her pregnancy. I think it's good that she is working nonstop; she is making very good movies and leaving behind the unjust and undeserved controversy of her Oscar as Best Actress in the Black Swan.

      I'm glad you like the new look. I wanted a new format, and as soon as I saw this template I liked it.

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  3. The book was the first thing I read by Amos Oz. I loved it, hard! I also admire Natalie Portman. So I have this movie in my Netflix queue and am looking forward to it. It is a contemplative book full of sorrow and conflicted feelings about Israel and I think it would be a tough adaptation. I will let you know when I see it, how I feel about it. I recommend the book as a great piece of literature about the early days of Israel.

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    1. Perhaps, since you read the book, you will have a better understanding of the emotions not verbally expressed in the movie. I have been close to buying the book several times, but the ratings are 3* top, so I've been undecided. Since you recommend it, I will be adding it to my wishlist.

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