A combination of religio-political conflict and love, first-time writer/director, Joseph Cedar’s Time of Favor, received six Israeli Academy Awards. The film focuses on the discordance of values within the Jewish community – between the orthodox nationalists and the military and between idealists and realists.
An Israeli film concentrating on politics and religion, Time of Favor interestingly (but perhaps not unexpectedly) ignores the entire issue of the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. The explanation given by the director was that the omission was done purposefully in order to focus more directly on the issues within the Jewish community itself. To most Muslim moviegoers, however, the Palestinian question will seem like the proverbial “elephant in the living room” begging to be recognized.
Time of Favor focuses on a military regiment that is made up of the religious students of an orthodox Jewish rabbi. Their motivation is based on the philosophy behind the word I’shma, or to do something for the sake of God, which is “the ultimate goal”. It is a concept not unfamiliar to Muslims, who understand doing things fi sabilillah, also translated as “for the sake of God”. However, to see the same principle applied by religiously adherent Jews is new twist, to say the least.
The film highlights themes of devotion to religion, duty to nation, and the fulfillment of personal goals or self-satisfaction. Between these three contending aspirations, the film takes its audience on a psychological rollercoaster into the choices the characters are offered, the decisions they make, and the radical acts some are ultimately driven to commit.
These religious and political themes are contextualized by a central love story, more accurately, a love triangle between the rabbi’s daughter, Mishal, and two of the most important members of the Yeshiva (religious school). The rabbi Meltzer intends on having his favorite student and future scholar of the Torah, Pini, marry his only daughter.
Meanwhile, Menakhem, the leader of the military company appointed by the rabbi, falls in love with Mishal. This love story offers the audience a window into the subtleties and innocence of the relationship rather than the in-your-face sexual content prevalent in much of today’s filmmaking (however, the romantic themes will still be of concern of discerning Muslim moviegoers).
For Menakhem, being with Mishal would mean disobeying the rabbi’s wishes in addition to forfeiting his duty to his nation. Mishal’s decision to be with Menakhem rather than Pini drives Pini to dedicate his passion to a supposed greater cause – greater at least from the extremist Jewish perspective.
Pini develops a scheme to suicide-bomb the Dome of the Rock, the site in Jerusalem administered by Muslims who consider it, along with Masjid Al-Aqsa, holy. Cautious of the extreme behavior that the rabbi’s teachings might provoke, the Israeli secret service discovers the plot.
A thrilling drama full of suspense, depth, and a cast of highly developed characters, Time of Favor provides a rare personal view behind the scenes of the Israeli state from the perspective of an insider.
Apart from one interrogation scene consisting of severe fist to face combat, the film is quite friendly to those movie watchers who have a hard time with violence, stark nudity and intense sexual content.
The film does not succeed in taking its audience deep enough into the psychological state of Pini, in whose case, the amalgamation of genius, religious fervor, illness, and heartbreak leads to suicide bombing.
The film does, however, illustrate the potentially dangerous consequences that can come about in cases of ruthless ambition to die for a warped understanding of the cause.
It most definitely touches on current issues and concerns of terrorism in the world community and gives a universal understanding of clashing ideas within communities. In addition to this, it leaves viewers contemplating the many different ways a religious idea can be translated within the minds of its followers.
By: Hana Siddiqi
Also, read: Father of the Nation – Gandhi My Father