time of favor (2002)


director: joseph cedar

aki avni, edan alterman, assi dayan, tinkerbell

There's probably something significant about the fact that Time of Favor, an Israeli film about terrorism, depicts internal terrorism, not Palestinian. Set mostly in a West Bank settlement, Joseph Cedar's film follows Menachem (Aki Avni), a promising young soldier, Pini, his scholarly best friend, and Michal, the daughter of the orthodox rabbi that the two young men follow.

Menachem has just received approval to form a militia company from the rabbi's yeshiva students, a move that many of his superiors, and Israeli intelligence, regard with unease. The rabbi - played by the great Israeli actor Assi Dayan, son of General Moshe Dayan, hero of the Six Day War - preaches the rebuilding of the Temple to his fanatically devoted students, an idea that, if actually attempted, would plunge Israel into a maelstrom of bloodshed. (The current troubles in Palestine began when Ariel Sharon made an armed visit to the Al Aqsa mosque that currently occupies the Temple Mount.)

The rabbi has plans for Menachem and Pini; the young officer is to become his voice in the army, while the student is to become his successor, a great Talmudic scholar, and to make the succession complete, he decides to encourage Pini to pursue Michal. Michal, though, is modern and headstrong and unwilling to be treated like a trophy. She's in love with Menachem, besides, a feeling that he's painfully struggling not to reciprocate out of loyalty to his friend and teacher.

Pini takes it all very badly, and conceives of a suicidal plan to bomb Al Aqsa, implicating Menachem, who's arrested by Mossad and brutally interrogated. Menachem knows that he's the only person who might be able to dissuade Pini from his suicide attack, but by this point no one trusts him.

As Rabbi Meltzer, Assi Dayan does a marvellous job of portraying a character that, in lesser hands, might appear merely a zealot. His defense - that he only meant that the Temple should be metaphorically re-built - seems a bit unconvincing, but that might be a problem with Cedar's script. Edan Alterman's Pini is a hard sell as the brilliant mind he's constantly described as, and comes off as merely weak and callow. Tinkerbell's Michal (yes, that's the name the actress goes by) is much better as a modern yet religious young Israeli woman, conveying considerable despair in her situation, and not merely as a third of a romantic triangle. A film of unequal parts; gripping in spots but somehow unconvincing.