MiniReview: "Eyes Wide Open" (film)



Zohar Strauss and Ran Danker take a ritual bath in a scene from the film.  

What is it?

It’s an Israeli film (in Hebrew) from 2009 directed by Haim Tabakman.


What’s it about?

A married-with-children butcher in Jerusalem hires a mysterious young man as his assistant, and the two of them begin an affair, which causes a big stir in their Orthodox Jewish community.


That’s an ... unusual setting for a gay film.

Yes, it was fascinating to get this glimpse into life in Jerusalem, and into the Orthodox faith. It’s a totally different “frame” for life from what we’re used to in Western countries, one where everything revolves around the extremely tight-knit community, and the individual is expected to sacrifice a certain measure of their personal happiness for the greater good of the whole. The film is very compelling in that regard. It was educational for me.


I’m imagining that the whole “gay” thing must be a terrible shock for that community.

Actually, I didn’t really get that impression. In fact, this is one of those films where I felt that you could have substituted something else (adultery, for example) for the same-sex love relationship and it would have been essentially the same story. I didn’t really get a strong sense of these two men as gay. They just seemed like two men who happen to be attracted to each other. And in that sense, I didn’t find the film to be a “gay film” as such. I didn't even get a feeling that the attraction between the men is all that intense.


But isn’t the community shocked and horrified?

Not so much. The issue for the community seems to be unfaithfulness to one’s commitment to one’s wife and children and, by extension, to the community. But the fact that the “sin” centres around two men rather than a man and woman seems mostly incidental.



No. It’s a lovely, quiet, sensitive, intelligent film, and well worth watching. But there’s not a lot here to command attention from a specifically gay audience. 

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