Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nora's Will: Grade A


Nora’s Will (2008)

Fernando Luján; Writer-Director Mariana Chenillo. (Spanish and Hebrew; subtitled)

An old retired guy (Lujan) finds his ex-wife has committed suicide, but not before setting an elaborate table for the Passover feast. The ex-husband calls his adult children and the ranking rabbi. He is a nonbeliever himself however, and is annoyed at the rabbi’s authoritarian insistence on details of the funeral, including the fact that it will have to wait four days because of the religious calendar. The body is put on ice.

The husband thinks all this is ridiculous and signs up for a Christian funeral service and burial just to get it done, and also to annoy the rabbi. Crosses, flowers, and a cross-shaped casket appear in the apartment. The rabbi is extremely annoyed, all the more when he is offered a pork, bacon and sausage pizza by the husband. But the rabbi ultimately has his way when he calls all the important Jewish cemeteries and advises them that they cannot take a suicide. So the family has a problem, reminiscent in some ways of Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying.

The acting by Lujan and several others is superb, and the script is scintillating. The humor is dry and subtle, yet at the same time, the dramatic moments are deep and poignant. That is quite a writing achievement. Costumes are perfect, and while the movie is somewhat setbound, the cinematography is excellent. A very personal, funny and moving picture that illuminates life.

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