Contemporary World Cinema
Michal Aviad’s latest Hebrew feature is a slow-burning study of sexual harassment at the workplace, and its impact on a hard-working mother of three. Distancing features present in the film, such as initial static shots and the lack of a soundtrack, mean that one’s focus is solely on the main character’s often painful journey through her tumultuous relationship with her boss. Enjoyment of this film may vary depending on one’s ability to cope with and understand these distancing features.
When the film starts, Orna Haviv (played by Liron Ben-Shlush) has just had a successful (but long) interview with her former base commander, Benny Almog (Menashe Noy), who is now making a killing in real estate. Before long, Orna is booking meetings with influential clients for her boss, and is becoming passionate in his latest project, a 28-story high-rise condo in Rishon LeZion. Orna determines that French Jews are looking for places to build community and finds ways to distinguish Rishon from Netanya, the more popular place for such communities. Ben-Shlush does a great job of showing Orna’s dedication to her work and her internal satisfaction of a job well done.
It starts with a comment about Orna’s hair, then a directive to buy classier clothes. Groping ensues, and a kiss is thwarted. Mr. Almog has a tendency to mix work-related orders with needy requests for attention and affection. Needless to say, Orna’s job just got more difficult, and her internal satisfaction is mixed with fear and uncertainty. To make matters worse, Orna’s husband is struggling to make ends meet with his new restaurant – he has asked her to go to her boss and ask for an advance.
The focus is solely on the work relationship between Orna and Mr. Almog: Orna’s husband and children are almost afterthoughts. This, of course, has advantages and disadvantages when coming to the film. An advantage is that the psychological build-up is streamlined, and the impact of the sexual harassment is definitely felt. The drawback, however, is that, due to the focus, you do not get much else in terms of story or context about Orna’s family. Perhaps, the film is making a point that when one is the victim of sexual harassment, the outside world becomes narrower and narrower until escape is near impossible.
While it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, stories like these need telling if things are ever going to change.