Here we are. The time has come for me to break you down into 8 scenes, which means you must well and truly be dead. After all, death as a process is made up of several stages of breakdown. It starts with the breakdown of cells in the “deceased’s” body; a task assigned to well over a hundred trillion ready, willing and able enzymes and bacteria that fast-track the job which usually takes them upwards of eight-to-nine months to finish, depending on the size of the “deceased.” Then comes stage two of the breakdown during which you spend the next few years as an “open buffet” of sorts and whatever’s left of you becomes sustenance for all kinds of worms, maggots, and strange little fungi. Next up is the stage when you’re broken down into an Assi Dayan Film Special on local satellite television on the anniversary of your death and finally, we’re at the stage where you’re broken down, scene by scene on the Israeli Film Archive website. And when that happens, that can only mean you’re about as unequivocally, categorically, decidedly dead as they come. This really is the point of no return.
I have to admit, it is a little amusing to have to break you down into scenes, seeing as how I’m essentially a type of scene, myself. After all, I literally am a product of Israeli film. And if I’m honest, I owe the fact of my very existence to Israeli film. In the beginning, there was a screenplay titled King for a Day. Then came the casting (with one main and rather fateful casting choice for the female lead), shooting, editing and finally – the theatrical release – 213,00 ticketholders at the box office and one blond baby boy at the maternity ward – that would be me. If it weren’t for the budding romance that blossomed in between takes between you and my mum, Caroline Langford who played the lead, I wouldn’t be here right now. To cut a long story short, I can’t very well deny the reality that Gabi Amrani [the film’s male lead – EE] is in fact part of my origin story.
As a product of Israeli film, I was destined to shadow you from the sidelines and watch you come into your own as a filmmaker – which, in a way was like watching Israeli film as a whole coming into its own. Certainly when Haaretz’s [leading Israeli broadsheet – EE] number one film critic, Uri Klein crowned Life According to Agfa a film that is “simultaneously a summary of the films that came before it, and a piece that is also a harbinger of the films that lie ahead.” A turning point in Israeli film history; a milestone indeed.
I was there on all those film sets, from Agfa through to Dr. Pomerantz, and long before there even was a set, through the writing stages. I watched you at nights sitting down, typing out words that turned to sentences, and then unforgettable dialogue and I knew that we’re coming up to that moment when you would say that thing you always said when you’d just finished writing a new script, “I’ve already watched the film in my head. Now comes the annoying bit; filming it.”
I was the quintessential film set kid. Standing on the side and watching you between the ‘actions!’ and ‘cuts!’, film after film, getting it all in one take; two at most, and on the rarest of occasions – three. People on set were always astounded by it. “Where do you get the confidence to shoot it all in one take?”, they’d ask you. And even though you wouldn’t usually answer while on the set (what with having to concentrate on running this whole show we call “film shooting”), I knew full well why you shot it the way you did. It wasn’t so much confidence as it was a philosophy according to which the script, the story are the most important things, and the camera and screen are the red tape hoops you have to jump through in order to get them to the viewers. And red tape is something you want to get through as fast as you can.
You once told me how you’d prefer it – a million times more – if you were a novelist instead of a filmmaker, speaking in prose instead of camera angles and all this zoom in, zoom out business. Yet at the age of 21, you somehow ended up in the world of film, and you stuck around. And yes, you may have carried around with you this constant feeling of loss over the author you could have been but I always knew that I had a dad who made movies that spoke fluent prose. You wrote poetry in frames and created an experience in your films that goes well beyond a super-sized popcorn & soft drink special offer at the multiplex, and a projector showing the film on the cinema screen at 24 frames a second, surround system and all.
You had me, and 14 feature-length narrative films that transformed the Israeli film landscape into something that much more diverse and interesting. You were our dad and now, it’s time to break you – and them – down to select scenes. That’s it then, daddy dearest. The time has come. Happy breakdown.