Broken Wings (Israel)

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Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Sun Jun 05, 2005 3:59 pm

BROKEN WINGS (Knafayim Shvurot)

Directed by Nir Bergman (2002)

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise." - Paul McCartney

The trauma that accompanies the sudden loss of a beloved family member is being repeated all over the Middle East today. Behind the headlines are the stories we never read about. One of these is told metaphorically in Nir Bergman's brilliant first effort Broken Wings. It is not an overtly political film, but the implications are clear. Set in the Israeli port city of Haifa, it depicts the effect of the loss of a patriarch on each member of his family, perhaps suggesting the emotional state of Israel since the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. The 83-minute film won accolades at the Berlin International Film Festival and has been a huge critical and commercial success in Israel, winning nine Israeli Academy Awards in 2003.

The beautifully expressive Maya Maron, in her first major role, plays an Israeli teenage singer-songwriter (also named Maya) who dreams of becoming a rock star, and wears wings when she sings in her local band. As the film opens, Maya is singing a song she wrote in memory of her father who died suddenly nine months earlier, for reasons not disclosed until the end of the film. Her song is interrupted when her mother Dafna (stage actress Orly Zilberschatz Banai), a nurse, phones and tells her that she has been called to work on the night shift at the local hospital and needs Maya home to take care of her brother Ido and sister Bahr. Maya emphatically refuses, then relents, but the tension between mother and daughter is palpable.

The young woman, who was with her father when he died, does not fully grasp the guilt behind her bottled-up rage, and takes out her anger on her mother, who is both sympathetic and irritating as she labors wearily to keep the family from a collision course. We learn that each family member is suffering the father's loss in his or her own way. Dafna stayed in bed for three months, leaving the children to do the parenting, and the results are reflected in their erratic behavior. Six-year old Bahr wets her bed and Ido carries out a strange ritual of filming himself while jumping into an empty pool. The oldest brother Yair (Nitai Gaviratz), also a teenager, has been suspended from school, and hands out leaflets on commuter trains dressed in a mouse costume while expressing a nihilistic philosophy to anyone who will listen. His inability to respond to the words father, fear, and anger during a word association test prompts his school counselor to deny him re-admittance until he receives treatment, but he does not help his cause when he tells the counselor "Your words are meaningless. This conversation does not exist and you don't exist."

Yair tells Maya that "things could be worse," and they do get worse before they get better. Broken Wings may sound depressing, but in Bergman's skillful hands, its sadness is balanced with humor and the strength and dignity of its characters. The film doesn't break any new ground, but displays the kind of insight that allows us to learn something new about ourselves. Though rooted in reality, Broken Wings has a heart that leaps and a soul that soars, and it's a film that I truly loved.


Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby trevor826 » Sun Jun 05, 2005 10:59 pm

Thank's Howard, it's been a while since I've watched it but you've reminded me how much I enjoyed it, as you say "The film doesn't break any new ground, but displays the kind of insight that allows us to learn something new about ourselves." and that certainly rings true with Broken Wings.

Most of us feel a pang of guilt at the death of a close friend or relative so it must be terrible when you feel (and you believe your close family think) that you are in some way responsible, this is one of those films I try and recommend to anyone interested in foreign films. Great review btw.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Mon Jun 06, 2005 12:36 am

This is one film that I felt a very strong connection to. Though I haven't been able to persuade too many people to see it, those that have really enjoyed it. For some reason, my son, who usually shows very little surface emotion, sobbed for ten minutes after the film was over - must have struck some chord (he never talked about it). It is one of my favorite films of the decade.

Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby A » Mon Jun 06, 2005 10:14 pm

Haven't seen it yet, but wanted to very much since its release. If I ever see it I'll post something. Sounds like a film I'll like.

And thanks for all the reviews Howard!!

Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Mon Jun 06, 2005 11:26 pm

You're welcome. I'm sure that it is available on DVD depedning where you live of course.

Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby hengcs » Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:50 am

I have watched it a long time ago in California.

Anyway, among sev things, I like the song ... very meaningful ...

Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby myfavorite » Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:52 pm

I must be losing my humanity, but this movie struck no chord with me. If anything, it merely reminded me of family fare like Party of Five and Seventh Heaven, lowly tv shows which show more restraint and less melodrama than this movie. This movie just went straight for the tear ducts with a not-so-subtle portrayal of a bereaved and embattled family. I'd pay twice the price of admission if they could achieve the same effect without literarlly going for the floodgates (i.e. the constant depiction of characters shedding copious tears and sundry other overwrought scenes.)

There is a formula to tearjerking and that is to do so through sympathetic weeping, i.e. depict someone (preferably a child, the younger, the better) crying with a little context and the audience reach for the Kleenex. But during those manipulative moments in Broken Wings, I could only shake my head and tune out. There are other ways to create emotional responses than outright melodrama.

For family drama, I'm still genuinely moved (yes, to tears, sometimes) by Yasujiro Ozu (although he has clunkers too like Brothers and Sisters of Toda Family). I still remember the heart-rending ending of The Only Son., and yes, it tugged at my heartstrings, to say the least. For that matter, there are a number of movies during which I admit I found myself getting teary-eyed.

Now that I think about it, I remember Nani Moretti's The Son's Room, a movie with a similar theme to Broken Wings (i.e. death in the family). The depiction of those who are left behind, their struggle to cope with a loss resonated with me much more than what Broken Wings was shamelessly trying to do.

Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Wed Apr 19, 2006 9:50 pm

Really sorry you didn't connect with it on an emotional level for whatever reason.

It is true of course that I have an abiding emotional connection to Israel and to the Jewish experience but I think the film transcends the limitations of time and place and is a universal exploration of loss and how families respond to it.

Following is a summary of some of the key elements that stand out for me:


The script authentically conveys the turmoil of adolescence, one minute they are angry and resentful, the next minute warm and loving. In every situation, the characters react believably even if at times they are unable to put aside their personal desires. All are separated from their pain and act out their guilt by engaging in various forms of denial: Six-year old Bahr wets her bed and Ido carries out a strange ritual of filming himself while jumping into an empty pool. Maya drifts between normal desires for boys and pop music and resentment against her mother for forcing her to assume child-rearing duties. The oldest brother Yair (Nitai Gaviratz) has been suspended from school and spends his time handing out political leaflets on commuter trains wearing a mouse costume while espousing a nihilistic philosophy. The characters do not speak to each other in "movie" language but talk in a way that is recognizably human.


The story, about ordinary people having to experience loss, is one that is easy to identify with. The film could easily have fallen into the trap of melodrama but the director avoids manipulating our emotions by not providing a clichd narration telling us how we should feel and by allowing the characters to achieve growth at their own pace. The score by Avi Belleli is also deeply affecting.


It is a sad film but each character has their own droll sense of humor that lightens the tone, reminiscent of Kitano's Fireworks in its play of light and dark. Though the film has moments of darkness, it is not a bleak experience but an uplifting one.


With the exception of Dafna, the mother who is played by an Israeli TV and film veteran, the actors are all first-timers and all the performances achieve a rare naturalness and authenticity. Mr. Bergman illustrates the problem and the challenge. "You had to use different manipulative ways for each actor. It's not like you have one method to work with all your actors, you gotta work with each of them the way that he works. You want to bring them to the authentic moment. But then it's so different between different actors. For instance I had a lot of problems with Yair in the energetic scenes. He was a non-actor and he had this pain in his eyes that got him the part, and he was quite good, he was great in most of the scenes that he didn't have to be angry. And then when he had to be angry and he had to be more excited, he found it hard to do because it wasn't exactly in his nature. So I had to ignore him that day. I had to not speak with him. And eventually I had to shout at him, until he came back with fire, you know? With what he was feeling. So when he and his sister are shouting at each other, that was a scene you really had to work on to get it out."


The sudden loss of a family member is part of the experience of life in Israel today when a terrorist can, in an instant of horror, bring a swift end to an individual's plans, hopes, and dreams. The film could be a metaphor for the condition Israel finds itself in since the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, but it is not a political film. It is told in the language of personal emotion, of the struggle of a family growing together through a mutually shared loss. Broken Wings may not break any new ground stylistically but, in the honest way the characters interact to support each other, it is a deeply moving and unforgettable experience.

Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby wpqx » Thu Apr 20, 2006 1:14 pm

Didn't know this thread existed. I too wasn't overly impressed with the film. I didn't dislike it, but I found nothing special or really worthwhile about it. The film was remarkably safe and bland, and I know I'm not the only one who thinks so on this site.

Re: Broken Wings (Israel)

Postby trevor826 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 1:27 pm

I think it's one of those films that can touch a nerve, ten years ago it would have made far less of an impression on me than it has now though it's less to do with age than with life and personal experience.

Not a classic but its heart is definitely in the right place.

Cheers Trev.

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