Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tribeca ’09: Seven Minutes in Heaven

Suicide-homicide bombings might be a fact of life in Israel, but that makes them no less devastating for those who lose loved ones in such attacks. As a survivor of a bus bombing, Galia sustained severe burns to her arms and back, but the emotional wounds from the loss of her boyfriend Oren run far deeper in Omri Givon’s powerful drama Seven Minutes in Heaven (trailer here), one of the highlights of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Galia was clinically dead for seven minutes, yet she returned to the land of the living. Oren however, fell into an irreversible coma and slowly slips away before her eyes. Haunted by “what if’s” and suffering from acute survivor guilt exacerbated by painful memories of their final lovers’ quarrel, Galia could use some closure. Those brief seconds seem to hold the key as she tries to reconstruct what happened to her during the immediate aftermath of the senseless attack.

Though still in mourning, Galia finds solace in the attentions of the easy-going Boaz, who always seems to be around when she needs him. As she pursues her investigation, Galia discovers she is linked to Boaz in unexpected ways. Seeking cathartic answers, Galia visits the bombed-out husk of the fateful bus, at which point Seven delivers the audience a metaphysical curve ball. Cinematically, it is a dazzling scene, jumping between clearly differentiated timeframes and perspectives, perfectly handled by Givon and editor Nitay Netzer.

Given the overall volume of flashbacks and hallucinations, Seven can still be a bit tricky to follow at times, but it is worth the effort. Givon has crafted a cerebral but emotionally engrossing film, nicely laying the groundwork for his third act revelation so it feels organic rather than gimmicky. Reymond Amsalem captures Galia’s guilt and regret with a direct immediacy that is hard to shake. She is perfectly balanced by the likable Eldad Fribas who invests Boaz with a wistful humanity that takes on greater dimensions in retrospect.

The circumstances of Seven are particularly tragic because they happen all too often in Israel, a point the film subtly makes. While at times demanding, Seven is an intelligently composed, legitimately moving film. It screens again at Tribeca on May 1st and 2nd.