This first long feature, designed as an immense "tableau vivant", tells the Old Testament story of Esther, who does not know she is Jewish when she is chosen by King Ashasuerus as his wife. Upon discovering a plot against her people, she manages to save them. Using this myth of survival and resistance, Amos Gitai also narrates the revengeful exterminations perpetrated by the Jews against their enemies. This violence resonates with current events, creating a parallel underscored by the ruins of Wadi Salib, where Gitai filmed the story. This is the first part in a trilogy that also comprises Berlin Jerusalem and Golem, the Spirit of Exile.
"Individual characters clash visually with their backgrounds, and one part of a sequence seems somehow to contradict another. But such disparities encourage the viewer to play an active, thinking role in apprehending the film as a whole."
Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1989
"The director holds the story at an analytical distance. Events are re-enacted in a sequence of ritual tableaux shot in the ruins of Wadi Salib, the old Arab neighbourhood of Haifa that the Palestinians abandoned after the 1948 war. The sense of ancient unsettled scores that have simmered for centuries is almost palpable in this beautiful but ravaged territory. In the most striking shots, the actors seem to blend into the architecture like the figures in Persian miniatures. These shots are pointedly contrasted with others photographed in the same vicinity, which make it look like a squalid contemporary junkyard. The juxtapositions suggest how overwhelmingly the region's history continues to haunt Israel's present."
Stephen Holden, The New York Times, May 19,1989
Cast Simona Benyamini, Mohammed Bakri, Juliano Merr, Zare Vartanian, Schmuel Wolf, David Cohen, Sarah Cohen, Rim Bani Screenplay Amos Gitai, Stephan Levine d'après le texte biblique Cinematography Henri Alekan, Nurith Aviv Sound Claude Bertrand Editing Sheherazad Saadi Special effects Bachir Abou Rabia Production design Richard Ingersoll Production Agav Films, Channel Four (UK), ORF (Austria), Ikon (The Netherlands), United Studios Herzlia (Israel) Executive producer(s) Ruben Korenfeld, Edgar Tenembaum
Cannes : Festival de Cannes
1986 - Critics' Week
Torino : Torino Film Festival
1986 - Grand Prix
Rotterdam International Film Festival