DVD Review: Eyes Wide Open
Release Date: November 16, 2010
Distributor: First Run Features
· Haim Tabakman
· Ran Danker
· Zohar Shtrauss
· IMDb: Eyes Wide Open
by Robert Bell
Published: November 16, 2010
While I can think of at least three documentaries over the last decade to tackle the subject of homosexual orthodox Jews, Haim Tabakman’s “Eyes Wide Open” stands apart, creatively, assembling an accessible narrative on the subject devoid of pretence and posturing. To call the film deliberately paced would be an understatement, but the building of tension with quiet observation and thematic veins of passion versus spirituality compel throughout.
In Jerusalem’s strictly orthodox Jewish community, married father of four Aaron Fleischman (Zohar Shtrauss) quietly works in his butcher shop, living a life of humble routine. Solemn and expressionless, his quotidian is detailed unobtrusively as he cuts and displays meat at work, going home each day to eat dinner and adhere to familial obligations.
With greyish hues and limited dialogue, the film conveys the mundane and passionless effectively, shifting slightly when 22-year-old Yeshiva student Ezri (Ran Danker) shows up at Aaron’s shop looking for work. Their close proximity in the small shop forces quick bonding, with the older man coolly teaching technique and responsibility. Tabakman smartly intersperses shots of community members watching and interrupting during these preliminary conversations and moments of connection, culminating in a warning from a Rabbi that the boy has something unsettling about him.
Respectfully, the film details reluctant submission to passion regardless of assimilative, constructed communal identity. Aaron’s inner-struggle is shown mostly through the juxtaposition of homosexual encounter and religious ritual, while an increased threat of exposure lingers. Things could easily wax pedagogical, preaching community oppression or queer vilification, but this story suggests only that one’s relation to God is theirs alone rather than obligation to arbitrary, rigid constraints.
Included with the DVD is a brief interview with writer/director Haim Tabakman, wherein he humbly describes himself as a dilettante, expanding on his decision to tackle such a controversial subject. It’s a decent addition to a film sure to touch anyone willing to engage in a story beyond gender, sexuality and religious beliefs.