Saturday, October 06, 2012

Director Hagar Ben-Asher puts herself before the cameras in disturbing, explicit film from Israel, "The Slut"


The opening scene of Israeli director Hagar Ben-Asher’s new ("debut") character study “The Slut” looks like a Technicolor retrospect of “The Turin Horse”.  We see a horse, escaped from a farm in dry country, running across some fields, toward a Biblical town, before it gets hit by a car.

A young veterinarian Shai (Ishai Golan) comes to town, to take care of a deceased mother’s estate and display his practical hands-on skills in country life, apparently near a kibbutz.  Soon he meets Tamar (Hagar Ben-Asher herself), a 35-year-old single mom with two daughters.  She has a tendency to let a number of men around the village take liberties.  But she starts a predictable relationship with Shai.  By this time, the film has already set a quite explicit tone.

The environmental visuals are interesting. The countryside is rather flat, so I’m not sure what area of Israel this town is in.  There is absolutely no reference to the politics of the region.

Shai, like many male friends of single mothers, starts playing possible dad to the girls.  At first, all is healthful.  He interests them in bringing his mom’s injured horse back to health.  He accompanies them to a kibbutz-sponsored day dedicated to volunteerism, to construct a new Sukkah. Then, there’s a scene where he gives one of them a swimming lesson in a natural spring pond.  This is a kind of scene I have often contemplated for my own screenplays.  When I was a substitute teacher a few years ago, I found myself put into situations possibly comparable to this, demanding more intimacy than I was prepared to handle.

However, toward the end, Shai’s interests and motives take on a dark turn.  Perhaps one of the girls is indeed approaching biological maturity, and provides temptation – that we don’t see.  But Tamar, and the villagers, take on every day, earthy, direct intervention to solve their problems, without the intervention of the intrusive, high politicized (and self-righteous) outside world.  But the results can be tragic.

I received a screener from Strand for this film, which also comes from Transfax and the Sundance Institute. The DVD will be available Oct. 23.  The Strand URL is here

Hollywood Reporter notes that Ben-Asher may be the first female director to feature herself in a film of this nature, link here

Culture Buzz (from Israel) interviews the director in the video above. 

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