Direction: Joseph Cedar
Featuring: Shlomo Bar-Aba and Lior Ashkenazi
Footnote is an Israeli film about a father and a son – both in the Talmud department of the Hebrew University. The father is a researcher following traditional research methods – hard-working, meticulous and perseverant. The son, on the other hand, is modern, publishes without being entirely sure, is sociable and highly appreciated. The father doesn’t take his son’s successes too well.
To understand the film in its entirety, one must have some knowledge about Talmud research or at least Judaism and its texts. When you don’t understand the literature, the film is a blindfolded ride through complex dynamics of this father-son relationship of envy, rage, sympathy, irreverence, fear and love (that is much considering the father is said to be autistic).
The father is proud and the son is sacrificial (more out of the fear of breaking the family). The father is contemptuous of his son’s research but the son is sympathetic of his father’s work. The father publicly calls his son an empty vessel but the son attributes all his successes to the father. In spite of the father being portrayed as the pompous guy, I felt for the father more than the son – almost as if he was wronged by the world (of research and rivalry).
The women characters in the film are very interesting. There is the typical mother – hosting guests, folding up the newspaper, protecting the son and spreading love. There is the son’s wife – whose job is to be a mother (for the grandson) and she even refuses to do it right. Then there is this girl who submits a research paper that is beyond bad and a journalist who is said to be amateurish.
The film’s ending haunts you with its openness leaving you contemplating for a long while after the film what the father will do with the prize (knowing fully well he was awarded it at the mercy of his son). You are wondering if you know the father well enough to conclude that he will arrogantly refuse acceptance – or bury his wisdom and take the prize he waited decades for.
In essence, footnote is the story of a bunch of convoluted relationships that the director leaves you to untangle in your own time. Well played, indeed.