Hole in the Moon

Uri Zohar
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Uri Zohar, based on a script by Amos Kenan – 1964

Three years before Heffner conducted his pioneering cinematic experiment, in 1964, Uri Zohar’s momentous groundbreaking film, Hole in the Moon, came out and cemented its status as the great, single most influential harbinger of Israeli avantgarde film. Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “He who truly seeks to toil, shall give birth anew to his father, his maker.” With that in mind, Hole in the Moon was indeed a colossal, onetime explosion of courage, talent, and passion that not only “gave birth” to a new Israeli film – but to a whole new era of Israeli film.

It is a film that feeds on inspiration, being that it is chiefly a parody of various film genres with an emphasis on local, nationalist film, i.e. Zionist, collectivist, heroic cinema. It sought to challenge the conventional use of expressive film elements (directing approach, cinematography, writing, editing, and acting) and instead introduce a novel, revolutionary approach to how one might employ them, influenced by innovative directors who were part of the burgeoning New Wave movement such as Godard, Antonioni, and Pasolini (the latter of whom was also a renowned, highly-regarded poet and author.)

“The fundamental difference is between a cinema of prose and a cinema of poetry,” ruled Pasolini. As such, it is not hard to establish the school of thought to which Zohar’s film belongs. A wide range of cultural icons rose to the occasion and surrendered their soul to this new (cinematic) science being established before their very eyes, that was – and remains – far greater than the sum of its stars who, indeed, were a formidable cast of A-listers including Uri Zohar, Shaike Ophir, Dahn Ben Amotz, Shoshana (Shoshik) Shani-Lavie, Arik Lavie, Israel Gurion, Zaharira Harifai, Shlomo Vishinsky, and Yechezkel Ish Kasit (to name but a few).

Hole in the Moon is an Ars-poetic film, starring the language of cinema, itself, as its main protagonist. It is teeming with homages galore, packed with pastiches, and heaped with references demanding that one have knowledge of the history of the film medium. Combined, all of these elements go towards cementing the film’s historical status as the most delectable elitist delight to those in the know. Having said that, one would struggle to accuse Zohar of elitism. Zohar was every bit the entertainer as he was the artist and craved the masses’ attention like oxygen. This versatile quality was an inextricable part of the rare charisma he had been gifted, as someone who knew how to soar high enough to punch a hole through the moon – but also how to get back down and play the whole thing for a laugh.

“Who’s the one overseeing everything here on the frontline, is that me or you?” Avraham Heffner asks Uri Zohar (or rather, Schkolnik – his character), in a brilliant scene that features an intoxicating mix of subtext and nonsense, buffoonery and sheer genius.

Courtesy of Shoval Films.

Hole in the Moon is available for online streaming on the Israel Film Archive website. Click to watch.

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