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SHORT TAKES ON FILM
Ben Nyce | Via Latina

 

“The Gatekeepers” is an eye-opening documentary on Israel’s failed policy of occupation. Director Dror Moreh presents interviews with six former leaders of Shin Bet – Israel’s accomplished security agency. The interviews are mixed with documentary footage of Palestinian uprisings, retaliatory missile strikes, Shin Bet prisons and interrogation techniques. The result is a well-made documentary without great cinematic invention. The power of “Gatekeepers” lies in its linear narrative, moving from celebration of Shin Bet’s effectiveness to realization on the part of its tough, brutal leaders that Israel is losing the war against terrorism. The Palestinians feel that, however one-sided the military conflict, they are winning as long as Israel suffers. Israel is losing its soul in the process. The film ultimately argues for negotiation and a two-state solution. This is sadly unlikely given Israel’s current leadership.

One of Orson Welle’s neglected films is his adaptation of Kafka’s “The Trial.” The story has it that Welles was in Paris lining up actors when he decided to take a look at the abandoned railway station on the Quai d’Orsay (now the d’Orsay Museum). In its gigantic, crumbling spaces Welles found the perfect setting for Kafka’s dreamlike drama of unending guilt. But Welles, as was true for every project after “The Magnificent Ambersons,” did not have the money to complete his film in one go. He had to shoot “The Trial” in bits and pieces as money came in from his work as an actor and from various backers. The result is a film of brilliant fragments which manages somehow to form a whole.

There’s the scene in which guilty Joseph K (Anthony Perkins) is crammed into a closet where punishment is being administered in the form of whipping. Or when he witnesses a nihilistic “sermon” delivered from on high to a collection of old men, light streaming down upon their abject heads from the d’Orsay clock as in a cathedral. The power of such fragments tempts the viewer to stop the DVD and repeat them in order to examine Welles genius at work.

A copy of the older films mentioned in this column is available at the Del Mar Library. Call 755-1666 for availability. Ben Nyce taught literature and film at USD. He is the author of “Satyajit Ray: A Study of His Films” and “Scorsese Up Close.”


 

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