June 24, 2008
The secret is out. There is a steamy sexual scene between two gorgeous Israeli women in the film, “The Secrets.”
But the Israeli film, directed by Avi Nesher and spotlighted in this year’s Israel Film Festival, is not only about a lesbian love affair.
The film is much deeper than that.
To be sure, the title “The Secrets” is referring to the intimate bond two young religious girls form while studying at a seminary in Safed. The girls, both under societal and familial pressure to marry and fulfill their role as dutiful mothers and wives, must keep their romantic feelings hidden from the world and much of the film’s drama revolves around the clandestine coupling.
But there are other, more intense secrets in the film.
Like the cause of the main character, Naomi’s mother’s death. The family alludes to an illness and Naomi accuses her father of ignoring her mother’s depression, but the entire subject is seemingly swept under the ultra religious household’s rug.
Then there is the mysterious French woman in Safed who seeks the help of the two young seminary students to obtain redemption for a murder she committed. The terminally ill social outcast reveals a few of her dark secrets during the course of the film, while others remain hidden.
In attempting to purge the woman’s sins, Naomi delves into the forbidden secrets of Kabbalah, whose roots are strongly entrenched in the holy city of Safed. Almost like playing with the dark side of magic, Naomi unearths passages and rituals in the seminary’s ancient books and concocts a series of “tikkunim” - literally “fixes” - to cleanse the sinner’s soul.
“The Secrets” is a riveting labyrinth of hidden thoughts, mysterious deeds and concealed emotions that prompts you to consider numerous interesting questions, including whether sexual relations between women are forbidden in Judaism. The answer is not what you would expect.
You’ll have to see the movie to find out. Or ask your rabbi, although I think spending $11 is much easier.
For more great Israeli films, show times and theaters, visit www.israelfilmfest.com.