Monday, August 31, 2009
Lemon Tree (DVD)
Lemon Tree is a beautifully drawn portrait of life on the West Bank. Co-writer/director Eran Riklis’ film is based on a true story of a Palestinian widow who took her neighbour – the Israeli Defence Minister – to the Supreme Court over an olive grove he sought to remove for security purposes. The substitution of lemons for olives not only reflects the bitterness of the dispute, but the generally sour state of relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Hiam Abbass carries the film as the stoic widow Salma Zidane. Abbass may have already stolen your heart in Thomas McCarthy’s The Visitor, and here she is similarly magnificent: determined, weary and beautiful. On the other side of the fence is her Israeli counterpart Mira Navon (Rona Lipaz-Michael), the conflicted wife of a charismatic and pragmatic Defence Minister (Doron Tavory). Across the divide, Mira and Salma form a silent bond, forged in their shared loneliness and frustration with the status quo.
Despite the fact that Lemon Tree is clearly a parable, sometimes the film’s parallels are a little too neat. The absent children, the caterer forgetting the lemons and even the comic relief of Quickie (Danny Leshman) – the Israeli sentry studying for his psychometric test – may seem a little too obvious. Moreover, the love story between Salma and her lawyer (Ali Suliman), though deftly handled, also borders on melodrama.
The allusion that does work, however, is the wall. Devastating in its ruinous simplicity, the complex and divisive history of this land is symbolised by the wall, which the Lemon Tree reveals in all its futile glory.
3 1/2 Stars