Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival — and a bonafide masterpiece that deserves to be mentioned alongside “Parasite,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “The Irishman,” and the rest of the major new releases this fall — Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms” is destined to go down as one of the most thrilling, infuriating, and essential movies of 2019. And thanks to distributor Kino Lorber, American audiences won’t have to wait much longer to see it.
A sui generis work of tormented genius from the Israeli auteur behind “Policeman” and the original version of “The Kindergarten Teacher,” Lapid’s disorienting third feature is a strange and utterly singular tale about the violence of a man trying to replace one identity with another. That man, extrapolated from the director’s personal experience of fleeing to Paris because he believed that he was born in the Middle East by mistake, is named Yoav (played by newcomer Tom Mercier in a staggering debut performance), and his story begins just after he’s exiled himself to France. It’s there, running naked through his palatial Airbnb, that Yoav first encounters the beautiful young bourgeois couple who live downstairs and become inextricably entwined in his destiny.
Co-produced by “Toni Erdmann” director Maren Ade, and inflected with the same volatile comic energy that made her film so unforgettable, “Synonyms” is a spellbinding piece of work that continues Lapid’s career-long fascination with the impossible knot that ties a person to their country — specifically, his country — like the bust on the bow of a sinking ship. Knotted, angry, and sickeningly on schedule during a time when cynical forces are weaponizing Israeli identity against the rest of the world, “Synonyms” is an unshakable portrait of someone whose passport allows him to travel the globe, but also never lets him forget where he came from.
Recently named as one of IndieWire’s 100 Best Movies of the Decade, “Synonyms” is set to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival next month. In anticipation of its theatrical release on October 25, IndieWire is pleased to premiere the movie’s hypnotic first trailer. Check it out below, and start getting excited, amped, hyped, stoked, jazzed and so on for “Synonyms” to shake up the coming fall season.