Thursday, October 3, 2019

“Synonyms” A Good Jew in Paris

By José Alberto Hermosillo

“Synonyms” is pure Bertolucci! An urgent cry for freedom. Sublime and poetic. Unmissable and obsessively beautiful.
Recently, antisemitism and extreme right-wing Nationalism are increasing their activities in Europe. Many French-Jews are fleeing back to Israel. Ironically, young Joav, played by newcomer Tom Mercier, upon his arrival in Paris, felt the urgency to become a French citizen. Joav is an Israeli army deserter suffering PTSD. His memories of abuse and brutality experienced in his nation blend in with an explicit dehumanization of his persona.
"Synonyms" ©Berlin Film Festival
Upon Joav’s arrival, he falls asleep in the bathtub of an empty apartment located in a fancy neighborhood of Paris. When he wakes up, all his belongings are gone. Back to the tub, and near-death experience of hypothermia, a Good Samaritan young couple come to rescue.
"Synonyms" ©Berlin Film Festival
Emilie (Quentin Dolmaire “Godard Mon Amour”) and Caroline (Louise Chevillotte) are a wealthy pair who want to fulfill their intellectual needs by playing dangerous games recklessly. They feed Joav, dress him, give him cash. At one-point, Emilie wants Caroline to marry Joav to become a French citizen as soon as possible. What a lucky boy! The couple’s generosity comes with a price tag, just because in this life, nothing is for free.
"Synonyms" ©Berlin Film Festival
“Synonyms” is an existentialist masterwork with a series of complicated events that inspires its audience to dig into the true meaning of its hero's journey. 

While working at the Israeli Embassy, Joav creates chaos by trying to help people in need of shelter. The symbolism and political-correctness of the film reach its climax through an extreme event that pushes boundaries and international borders, metaphorically speaking, comparing Joav's liberal actions versus the politics of Israel towards Palestinians.  

Joav’s only weapon is a French/Hebrew dictionary, where he can find a plethora of words to recite because that is the only way to survive in the very classist French society. So, he better start to speak Victor Hugo's language to perfection.
Nadav Lapid winning the Golden Bear for "Synonyms" ©Berlin Film Festival
Graduated in philosophy from Tel Aviv University, visionary Director Nadav Lapid (“Kindergarten Teacher,” “Policemen”) at the end of his military training in Israel, went to Paris with a mission, to save his soul and became a French-citizen something reflected in his compelling body-of-work.
"Synonyms" ©Berlin Film Festival
Writing this year’s Berlin Golden Bear winner, Lapid centralizes the story on a single character's journey and his wealthy friends. The director's semi-autobiographical work shows many layers of the story through Joav’s conflicting personality. Not only the inner force and self-determination of maintaining his goal till the end, but it contradicts in purpose the preservation of Israel Zionism as well - because his background plays a big part in his life. As a paradox in the story, Joav is a soldier who deserted his country, then emigrated to France to be alienated by the Parisians as well.

The country of Israel wants its prodigal son back. Joav’s father goes to Paris, trying to bring him back, not even a message from his mother can change his mind. He maintains himself reluctant to return to the homeland. In their country, the confrontational attitude of generations is evident - the older adults speak Hadith, the younger Hebrew. Now in France, Joav sings the Marseillaise better than any French-born citizen.


“Synonyms” appeals to the human spirit by showing the vulnerability of a man in a very dehumanized society.
"Synonyms" ©Berlin Film Festival
In a young man’s struggle, the concepts of freedom, opportunity, equality, indulgence, range, unrestrained, and rope take a deeper meaning in this social and political manifesto. Under other conditions and idealistically thinking, the main character also implements the concepts of loyalty, gratitude, and righteousness.

When rich people abuse the poor - the thin line of trust is broken, the player doesn't want to play anymore. No man can continue pushing his luck with actions that may be considered detrimental to the new land of opportunities in front of him. 

In “Synonyms,” one question arises - how far the players can go playing the game of life without rules, mostly when their actions are affecting the lives of others viciously?
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