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A Tale of Love and Darkness (2015)

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The story of Amos Oz's youth, set against the backdrop of the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel. The film details the young man's relationship with his mother and his beginnings as a writer, while looking at what happens when the stories we tell become the stories we live.

Director:

Natalie Portman

Writers:

Natalie Portman (screenplay by), Amos Oz (based on the book by)
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Natalie Portman ... Fania
Gilad Kahana ... Arieh
Amir Tessler ... Amos
Moni Moshonov ... Old Amos (voice)
Ohad Knoller ... Israel Zarchi
Makram Khoury ... Al Hilwani (as Makram J. Khoury)
Neta Riskin ... Haya
Alexander Peleg ... Old Amos (as Alex Peleg)
Rotem Keinan ... Tsvi
Tomer Capon ... The Pioneer (as Tomer Kapon)
Yonaton Shiray ... Teenage Amos (as Yonatan Shiray)
Vladimir Friedman Vladimir Friedman ... Mr. Licht
Henry David ... Colonel Jan
Dina Doron ... Grandma Klausner (as Dina Doronne)
Itzchak Peker Itzchak Peker ... Grandpa Klausner (as Itzhak Peker)
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Storyline

Based on the international best-seller by Amos Oz, A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS is the story of his youth, set against the backdrop of the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel. The film details the young man's relationship with his mother and his beginnings as a writer, while looking at what happens when the stories we tell, become the stories we live. Written by Studio

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic content and some disturbing violent images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

Israel | USA

Language:

Hebrew

Release Date:

19 August 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Une histoire d'amour et de ténèbres See more »

Filming Locations:

Jerusalem, Israel See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$37,170, 21 August 2016

Gross USA:

$572,212

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$724,885
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Neta Riskin and Shira Haas also work together in Shtisel (2013), were they play mother and daughter respectively. See more »

Quotes

Fania Oz: Maybe you could finally tell me, what is it about you that I love so much, you of all people?
See more »

Soundtracks

Women's Dance from Aleko
(Excerpt)
by Sergei Rachmaninoff feat. Nicholas Britell and Tim Fain
(P) 2015 Voltage Pictures under exclusive license to Milan Entertainment Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
TIFF40 2015 Film Review: A Tale of Love and Darkness
16 September 2015 | by lucasnochezSee all my reviews

"It's better to be sensitive than to be honest".

It is no surprise that first time writer/director Natalie Portman is taking a Pro-Jewish stance in her newest film A Tale of Love and Darkness. A celebrated novel by one of, if not the most prolific novelists hailing from Israel, Amos Oz; a last name that literally translates to "hope" in Hebrew. Oz is a novelist whose book serves as a large and hopeful story towards conflict flooding the Middle East. Sadly for Portman, whose keen eye and collaboration with many talented directors, has allowed her to visually over-stylize her film with beauty and tones of dark and tragically elegant glimpses, without much of a handle on narrative and storytelling.

A Tale of Love and Darkness is more dark than it is loving; seemingly with all but mere glimmers of hope for its small group of main characters. As the film begins, we are aware that an older Oz is telling a story, his story more specifically, essentially providing a voice-over for his novel. Narrating his words and recounting his childhood years after the Second World War, during a time Israel is under British mandate, a young Oz navigates a barren and soulless country while the politics and ramifications of war break down all around him. His only salvation are his zestful mother and realistic father. His mother Fania (Portman) and father Arieh (Gilad Kahana) are not wealthy. Ariel is an aspiring writer and librarian, Fania, a dedicated housewife who we understand leaves a life of wealth for love and motherhood, is a dreamer. Although she always imagined marrying a rebel/poet/farmer, Fania's expectations are always challenged against her realities.

The illusions and aphorisms within Fania's head are all stories of dread, drearily setting the tone for the mentality of many people during this time. It is when Fania begins her monologues about these parables that Portman's direction was at its strongest. Perhaps highly lit and stylized to their full potential, these stories provided audiences with a very real and optimistic promise of resolution and sometimes painful acceptance of war and conflict, yet so elegantly presented. Luckily, these stories account for a hefty portion of the film and drive the not-so-long runtime through smoothly.

There is no surprise that throughout the course of Portman's adaptation of Darkness, Oz is fully in love with his mother and her relentless attitude. Portman's cinematic take on the novel sadly disconnects her audience from the deep relationship between a young Oz and his living and loving mother Fania. Plagued with sleepy fade outs, incoherent scenes developing a young Oz and a highly depressed Fania, mixed with a blend of illustrious illusions and parables, pushed with a dash of Arieh's involvement with the family, Darkness is a dimly lit tragedy filled with hardly any love and mostly resent. Much like her character Fania, the light that so easily gleamed from her eyes and into the lives of other characters surrounding her, Fania's light slowly fades, bulldozing her character into a state of depression.

Portman is a dynamic actress with a very strong political voice when it comes to many of the conflicts happening in the Middle East today. As a recent Oscar winner and Harvard graduate with an articulate and respectable celebrity presence, it is difficult to imagine many critics and film reviewers giving scathing reviews for a piece of work that isn't all that good. Portman's efforts behind and in front of the camera are very admirable; her promise as a director is highly confident and most of all, her content is riveting, just not in this film.

Darkness is a film that toys with the failed promises of youth, speaks in a cocky and overstuffed tone of ethereal Hebrew that fails to connect its audience to the words and highly complex fantasies running through Oz's and Fania's head. Poetic, tragic, benign with its potential perspective to show a very unbiased side of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Portman's feature directorial and writing debut is a tale of much promise.

Portman may have tried to show the most innocent and bare examples of the conflict through scenes between children; one involving a dangerous swing, another involving children in a school playground. As such it is no surprise that the new director succeeds at very basic and simple action/reaction scenes. Sadly however, while Darkness comes to a conclusion, Oz's redemption from childhood to youth is never really seen or appreciated. Instead, audiences are left with a handsome and enlightened youth whose promise as an affective and politically conscious presence is spoiled in the beginning scenes of an older and wiser voice-over character. Editing is surely not one of Darkness' strong suits.

Portman is keen on showing that violence and conflict have no age limits or boundaries; it is unwavering and unkind to gender and race. Wholeheartedly, A Tale of Love and Darkness attempts to show us the light. The unfortunate reality, however, is that the lights always seem to be turned off.


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