March 21, 2011

Movie Review: Lemon Tree

I am making a habit of posting non-fiction! While I decide if I should keep up with it, I bring you another movie review.

Lemon Tree, an Israeli movie with dialogue in both Hebrew and Arabic, was directed by Eran Riklis and released in 2008. A Palestinian woman's life is thrown into tumult when the newly appointed Israeli defense minister, Israel Navon moves in next door with his wife. Salma Zidane owns a lemon grove passed down to her by her father, which supplies her with a meager sustenance but is the sole joy in her lonely existence. On the face of it, it appears to be a simple story of the Israeli-Palestine conflict told through a lemon grove. But like the conflict, it is neither simplistic, nor easy to reconcile. Its not only political, but a deeply personal story. Salma's grove is deemed a threat to the minister by his security detail, and she receives a notice declaring her lemon grove will be cut down. No one is sympathetic to her situation, her children included, given that other people have 'real' problems.

The movie explores a tapestry of relationships: the one between Salma and her grove, the disintegrating marriage of her neighbors, the implied unresolved relationship between Israel and his oft-quoted father, the friendship between Mira Navon and her reporter friend, the suspected relationship between Israel and his secretary, the growing unspoken support of Mira for her neighbor's cause, the fledgling relationship between Salma and her much younger lawyer, Ziad. Clearly a multi-layered film, the movie also showcases cultural nuances: the framed picture of Mr Zidane that glares down at Ziad, the meddlesome elders, who won't come to help, but visit bearing warnings about 'propriety' even before Salma and Ziad explore their attraction to each other while also unsubtly implying she didn't do as good a job of raising her children as her husband might have, had he been alive.

Salma doesn't speak much during the movie, but her understated performance is so good, she doesn't need to. Her character has an inner courage that helps her deal with the injustice of her situation, even while she's turned away at gunpoint when she climbs over the newly-constructed metal fence between her grove and her home to tend to her neglected lemon trees. "Only American movies have happy endings" Ziad announces at a press conference following the Supreme Court hearing of Salma's appeal.

The ending leaves you wondering 'Why does it have to be this way?' with the stark heartache(s) of the main characters symbolized vividly. Looking for an image of hope instead, your mind may seize upon a poster shown midway through the movie, that of a certain Zinedine 'Zizou' Zidane in a Real Madrid shirt, hanging above what was presumably Salma Zidane's son's bed before he left home.

If you yearn for a glass of lemon juice after the movie, it is only expected.

1 comment:

Amber Salm said...

Its a very powerful movie that touched me deeply. I think its one of the best film made in that year.
Lemon Tree Movie