***½/**** Image A- Sound A
starring Orly Silbersatz-Banai, Maya Maron, Nitai Gaviratz, Vladimir Friedman
written and directed by Nir Bergman
by Walter Chaw Israeli filmmaker Nir Bergman's Broken Wings (Knafayim Shvurot) is a film about the intricacies of a family implosion told in the minimal, spare, largely unsentimental fashion of a Mike Leigh picture, managing to relay its tale uncorrupted by the Israeli-Palestinian issue and, in Bergman's discretion, making a stronger statement about the mad choreography of war by personalizing the victims on its periphery. It separates itself from Leigh (and another headwater, Ken Loach) with a few scenes of carefully-constructed mise-en-scène that locate Bergman as a fan of the magical possibilities of cinema--and establish Broken Wings as a picture that challenges the post-modern idea that emotional truth can't be achieved without the trappings of handheld vérité.
Dafna (Orly Silbersatz-Banai) has been widowed, left to her swing shift as a midwife at a Haifa hospital and with the task of raising her four kids: taciturn Yair (Nitai Gaviratz), dreamy Maya (Maya Maron), budding filmmaker Ido (Daniel Magon), and little girl Bahr (Eliana Magon). The picture addresses the ways in which an ordinary working-class family, poleaxed by the arbitrariness of their orphaning (the father has died from an allergic reaction to a bee sting), takes on the burden of grief and regret in the wake of intolerable loss. The humanity of the performances and the subtle grace of Bergman's screenplay gel in what amounts to a war diary of ordinary people shell-shocked by the high cost of living.
Scenes in which Maya, still dressed in the goth attire and gossamer wings of her aspiring singer/songwriter, rides her bicycle home to babysit her two younger siblings and Yair walks along a decrepit mass transit system dressed in his Kirkegaardian uniform of mouse-head bearing pamphlets provide twin touch points for the visual foundation of the picture. Haifa becomes any medium-sized metropolis in Bergman's eye, while Broken Wings takes on the dignified human poetry of another debut film, Peter Sollett's Raising Victor Vargas. Addressing the fall of Troy, as it were, with each family member representing a different state of mind (the mind, the heart, the body, and, with the youngsters, fear and confusion), Broken Wings is thematically trim and surprisingly free for all its structure. A character study in an era when the Sundance Indie has franchised the idea and repackaged it as formulaic insincerity, Bergman's debut is at a throwback, and Bergman himself an emerging voice from an emerging industry. Originally published: April 16, 2004.
by Bill Chambers Columbia TriStar presents the gentle Broken Wings on DVD in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Emblematic of the studio's boutique (i.e., Sony Classics) titles, the image looks grainy and metallic, though shadow detail is crisp and edge halos make only cameo appearances. Apparently screened theatrically in Dolby Digital, the film has been downmixed to Dolby Surround for DVD but sounds excellent all the same--the Hebrew dialogue (supplemented by optional yellow English subtitles) comes through clearly and the diegetic song selections are of strong fidelity. As there are no extras pertaining to the main feature, allow me to refer you to this site's own interview with writer-director Nir Bergman; meanwhile, trailers for Broken Wings, Bon Voyage, Carandiru, Good bye, Lenin!, Monsieur Ibrahim, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, and The Triplets of Belleville (these last three comprise an elective block of previews preceding the main menu) round out the disc. Rhetorical question of the day: How on Earth could the MPAA slap Broken Wings with an R rating? Originally published: July 8, 2004.