26 February 2011

Is There Room for Fantasy in Israel?

Is there room for fantasy in Israel?
(Attempting to make my way back into the blogosphere by finally publishing a month-old post)

I went to see ‘Black Swan’ with two close friends, both of whom are native English-speakers. The film was like 'Carrie' and 'The Exorcist,' so naturally I was completely mesmerized. The cinematography gave it that realistic feeling found only in dreams, wherein we’re seeing our own actions, and can even manipulate ourselves physically, but are otherwise externally separated from our bodies.
While the three of us agreed that the movie was brilliant, we couldn’t help but become distracted from quite a few in the audience snickering at times during an otherwise intense film. This was a late showing in Tel Aviv, filled with mainly 20- and 30-somethings. I started explaining this as a defense mechanism in relation to Israeli’s jaded nature, and I found my words fading and failing.

Why was I trying to justify this kind of behavior?

To leave the theater meant walking down two flights of stairs, whose walls were covered in an abstract red-and-grey series of geometrics that caused me to say “and now we’re descending into a club.” And sure enough we were, as the exit for the theater was the entrance for a recently-opened club in the basment of a dental college. Bodies pressed up against one another, drinks and cleavage spilling all over the place, music blaring and lights on the verge of inducing fits -- I was ready to leave. In my exhaustion-induced stupor, I saw the lights and wraparound bar as the instruments of self-delusion, to willingly numb ourselves from the realities of the Middle East outside.
At first, I chastised myself for thinking so darkly, so being so jaded. And then I thought, how far is this from actual reality? After all, the movie theater led straight into the club. I personally become engrossed in any film I see, to the extent that my sensory awareness for some time afterwards is linked with the film – I think I’m living the film.

But are we meant, as Israelis, to quickly snap out of such alternative dimensions? Is there space for fantasy in Israel?

When I was younger, I used to create stories that stretched on and on, set off by the smallest of observances. Music is a great passion of mine, as it forces me as the listener to come up with the accompanying visual; but film is so wonderfully engrossing that I lament how much I miss it as soon as the credits roll.
I furst noticed this lack of space for fantasy at least year's Jerusalem Film Fesitval, blogged about here, with the premiere screening of "Andante." The film, avant-garde and entirely in Hebrew, disturbed more than a few people as evidenced by their leaving the theater. Several months later, I find myself less and less able to concentrate on such fantasies, becoming easily distracted by ADHD-inducing mechanisms like the “Shuffle” function on the iPod or the “Recommended” section on YouTube, making me feel lazy for not making the concerted effort in my choices for art.

(I’d also like to think my buying into this mentality is is the reason why this blog hasn’t been updated for a while....)

Perhaps that’s why I hold out in living in Jerusalem while working in Tel Aviv. The latter is a city, but what it lacks in fantasy is made up for here. For example, a short piece I coined in the heat of last summer:

"I was once told that there are no ghosts in the Land of Israel, despite inevitable shivers one feels here. Despite the Witch of Endor and Biblical prohibitions that do not deny their existence, some are too weary to admit to strange shifts in the wind at night.
Maybe not ghosts per se, but definitely supernatural events. The torpid quiet of a Shabbat night that for someone like myself, accustomed to an urban aural landscape, already presents itself as a chilling soundtrack. Or the imminent arrival of rain, as the sky turns asphalt to pave the way for clouds and thunder from the North, appropriately personified in ancient mythology as the storm god riding his chariot. The wind whips the trees’ branches into a frenzy, flagellating themselves and any miserable object not having found adequate shelter. Or the suffocating heat of the sharav, that wind-less heat from the East, whose breath is shortened momentarily by hiding in the air-conditioned indoors."
Here's to more fantasy and inspiration, speedily in our days.