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Himmo, King of Jerusalem – The Euthanasia

Amos Guttman
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At the heart of Guttman’s films, one always finds some form of impossible, taboo love – usually, same-sex love between two men but also, incest amongst siblings (Bar 51.) Himmo, King of Jerusalem is based on Yoram Kaniuk’s 1966 novel of the same title. The plot is set in a Jerusalem monastery that has been converted into a hospital during the 1948 Independence War’s siege of the city. Guttman’s film adaptation focuses on a burgeoning love story between a woman and a man who, for all intents and purposes is a zombie: Nurse Chamutal (Alona Kimhi) is devoted to Himmo (Ofer Shikartsi), a handsome, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy who was once nicknamed, ‘King of Jerusalem’ but was then wounded in combat which left him a maimed and blind, quadruple amputee.

Himmo is covered in bandages, with only his extraordinary mouth still visible – a relic of his erstwhile beauty. “Oot me… Oot me,” his screams pierce the air. He is pleading to be shot and put out of his misery. Chamutal’s devotion to Himmo and the bond that they form, ends up making the other veterans jealous. They are outraged that because of Himmo, Chamutal has forgotten all about the other wounded soldiers and urge her to marry him. “It wasn’t death I was drawn to,” Guttman told me when I interviewed him in 1987. “I was drawn to what the fear of dying brings out in people in a small, confined space. Once your love interest is this ‘bandaged-up bundle’ then obviously, what you’re looking at is an impossible love. But it’s the way those around them react that turns this love into something taboo.”

On the heels of an absurd night of passion, Chamutal decides to put Himmo out of his excruciating misery and administers him a lethal injection. She holds a private ceremony where she gives him the gift of eternity he has been pleading for, and then rings the bells. Chamutal kills Himmo because she has chosen to align with the living. She will not become the dead man’s bride.