Udi Aloni’s Forgiveness asserts its political ambitions early, with an opening title scroll that tells of a Palestinian village, whose inhabitants were slaughtered by an Israeli militia in 1948. On this site now rests a mental institution, the setting for much of Aloni’s first fiction feature. Despite this portentous setup and the film’s heavy-duty title, Forgiveness never seems to deliver any sort of trenchant look at the history, legacy, or current state of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Maybe it’s in there somewhere, between the enigmatic palm reader and the covert memory drug and the ghost with the key necklace and the blind prophet and the Palestinian-cleaning-woman-turned-terrorist. But even the most astute viewer will likely have difficulty discerning coherence, much less political meaning, from this convoluted mystery/war film/romance/musical/Oedipal drama. Midway through, two characters have an inane conversation in which they compare mental health treatment to building a bridge over a black hole, and one of them remarks on the impossibility of doing so, because a black hole simply absorbs everything around it—and they go on to explain, there’s no way out of or over a black hole. This silly mixed metaphor may provide an apt analogy for the film itself: lots of ideas go into Forgiveness, but none make it out the other end.
At the center of this muddle is David (Itay Tiran), a petulant twentysomething American-Israeli who begins the film in a catatonic state. Through flashbacks and flash-forwards, Aloni slowly traces David’s journey from New York to Israel to the mental institution and back. Click here to read the rest of Chris Wisniewski’s review of Forgiveness.