Academic struggles in Footnote.
PG, 103 minutes). Opens Thursday at Dendy Opera Quays, Cremorne Orpheum, Randwick Ritz and
Avoca Beach cinema.
In the movies of Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar, his countrymen struggle to actually do what they believe they must. In 2007's Beaufort, a group of soldiers serving at an outpost in Lebanon ponder the futility of their situation even as they risk their lives, while in Cedar's new film, Footnote, successive generations of academics try to uphold their public and personal responsibilities.
The two milieus are completely different, although they both feature explosions of a sort. Apart from a dutiful hug, Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar-Aba) and his son, Uriel Shkolnik (Lior Ashkenazi), barely interact. The father is a righteous researcher combing various versions of the Talmud, Judaism's key text, while the son is a popular author and lecturer on the same labyrinthine work. Eliezer tries to be proud of Uriel, but his stern demeanour at the latest awards ceremony for his offspring makes clear his pain at his own lack of recognition.
Scuttling around Jerusalem like an angry crab, Eliezer feels permanently slighted. His life's work was usurped by a rival barely a month before he was about to publish, and he's since become so content within his siege mentality that he doesn't know how to react when he's awarded the Israel Prize, a major annual honour in a country where academics, and their opinions, are central to public life.
Uriel's surprise at the announcement becomes a kind of torture when he's told there was a mistake and that he was the intended recipient. What follows is drama observed with comic incisiveness: Cedar sketches his protagonists with lucid strokes and witty, upbeat techniques.
The head of the Israel Prize's judging panel argues that publicly correcting the error would vindicate Eliezer's own methods, while Uriel counters that sometimes doing the right thing is more important than serving the truth.
The film, which presents academia as this literally tiny world of offices overrun with books and big egos, isn't scared to weigh up such debates, and the resulting friction is played out expertly by the two leads.