Eyes Wide Open (2009) Poster

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9/10
Lovers with yarmulkes: a stunner
Chris Knipp16 February 2010
What happens if you're a married man with children in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem and you fall in love and lust with a beautiful young man? Couples counseling? A divorce and a move to San Francisco with your lover? No. Something much more dire, as we learn from this simple, powerful first film in Hebrew by Haim Tabakman.

You get a brief period of happiness. Aaron (Zohar Shtrauss) in fact tells his rabbi that he was dead before, and now he feels alive. A beautiful 22-year-old orthodox man named Ezri, (Israeli hearthrob Ran Danker) turns up during a heavy rainstorm at Aaron's butcher shop just after he's reopened it following his father's death. Aaron probably realizes the minute he sees Ezri that he is a temptation. But he subscribes to the belief that the man who lives successfully close to temptation earns greater favor with God. He's come to see life as testing, not joy.

Without much pushing, Aaron takes in Ezri, who's from somewhere else and seems to be a Yeshiva student in search of a Yeshiva, appears (to the viewer, anyway) to have arrived to look up a former boyfriend -- does Ezri represent fresh blood in the ultra-orthodox world? -- and needs a job and a place to stay. Ezri smiles; Aaron never does. Aaron's scenes with his wife Rivvka (Tinkerbell) are dutiful, affectionate, and incredibly dull. He pushes Ezri away at first, but as Ezri becomes a part of his life, learning how to do the work of a butcher, his attraction becomes stronger. After a number of physical contacts and a trip to the country to immerse themselves together in a lake, it's Aaron who comes after Ezri, wordlessly, after they've loaded a big animal carcass into the cooler. Tabakman and the writer Merav Doster create a world in which you know exactly what people are thinking when they only stare at each other. The values and the desire to override them are equally clear.

The way Aaron's community deals with misbehavior is illustrated by a women who works nearby, who continues seeing a man she loves even though her father has promised her to someone else. Aaron is called upon to go with a group to threaten the man and the woman. Aaron warns them that if the matter fell into the hands of the "purity police" they'd be roughed up and the flat would be turned upside down.

The beauty and the melancholy of Eyes Wide Open is that it doesn't glorify either gay experience or orthodox Jewish life and yet it coolly shows the beauties of both. You can see the closeness and security of the life, the simple joys of celebratory meals (at Aaron's house, where Ezri is invited for them), of joining hands and singing there or in Talmud class, where the men chant and bang on the table. Aaron's physical pleasures with Ezri are equally simple, and intense, with a passion lacking in his ritual under-the-sheets couplings with Rivvka.

Soon Aaron is missing appointments at home -- and not caring; closing the shop for no reason. There are no secrets in this community, and someone knows where Ezri comes from. He's a bad man, someone reports. "He was sent away from his Yeshiva. He did too many mitzvahs." Someone sees something. Threatening voices in the alleyway and the pashkavils (orthodox posters used as mass communication) begin declaring "there is a bad man in our community."

The film, with its simplicity, its drab realistic settings and its leisurely, Rossellini-like pace, achieves a kind of quiet perfection and memorableness despite subtitles that are occasionally out of sync and an obtrusively ominous electronic sound track. The material is explosive, and the filmmakers and the actors have known well enough not to mess with it too much.

The film, whose Hebrew title is 'Einaym Pkuhot,' premiered in May 2009 at the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard series. Screened at Cinema Village in NYC February 16, 2010, where it opened February 5.
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8/10
Small, unpretentious and extremely moving
grahamclarke9 April 2010
"Eyes Wide Open" has a wonderful sense of sincerity to it. It's a small, unpretentious film which manages to plunge to emotional depths without being showy or sensational. This restraint imbues the film with much power and conviction in telling the story of a family man whose inner world is torn apart when he falls in love with a young man. What makes this scenario unique is that the milieu in which this is played out, is that of the ultra Orthodox Jewish society in Jerusalem. As with all extreme religions there is of course no place for deviants from the norm.

Aharon, the protagonist, is a deeply religious man searching for truths who has to face the truth of his own heart. In perhaps the most poignant scene of the film, he confesses to his horrified spiritual mentor that he feels he's truly come alive for the first time.

"Eyes Wide Open" is the debut feature film of director Haim Tabakman. It is unusual for a first time director to demonstrate such assurance of style and tone. What would make or break a film of this nature is the quality of the performances. All the secondary parts are well played, but it is Zohar Strauss utterly convincing lead performance which makes the film work. There is not one false moment. This makes the inherent tragic situation an extremely moving one to behold. Highly recommended.
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10/10
Honest & integer debut
MdlndeHond12 May 2010
Situated in the orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem this debut is a rare intimate view into a closed community where everyone keeps a close watch on each other and keep hold with an invisible grip. It's about homosexuality this time but it could have been about any other subject that is controversial. More than anything it's about the pressure of a community that gives one no other choice than either to bend or to break under the pressure.

Integer, honest and touching this movie tells itself by the images and not by an abundance of words. Silence contributes to the impact like a sonic boom. This movie is felt as much as it is seen. Wonderful, a gem.
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8/10
More than substantial piece going on to explore the coming together of two characters in what is a fascinating film; keep your eyes peeled wide open for it.
johnnyboyz5 April 2011
Eyes Wide Open is the fantastically well played drama, eventually coming to mutate into a tale of taboo romance, of two men of differing ages and places in life formulating a bond that is much to the acknowledged risk of either party; the suspicion of those close to them and the eventual disdain of everybody else in the community. The film opens in the pouring rain, the back-streets of Israel acting as a run down and somewhat decrepit setting for middle-aged husband and father of two Aaron Fleischman (Shtrauss) to finally return to his butcher shop following the grief he has suffered born out of the loss of his father. Aaron is in a tough situation, the rain is heavy and there is little in the way of protection; the padlock on the shutter to the entrance of the shop proving an obstacle in the way made only possible to get rid of by resorting to a last-ditch effort of brute force to bash one's way through and in. Such an introductory situation goes on to encapsulate that of the film's; a predicament gradually, slowly getting worse before pushing mutates into shove and the conventional methods of a particular process must be put aside to deal with the scenario in a more pachydermatous manner.

Aaron goes on to take over his father's business; a butcher's business he helped his father out with here and there whilst much younger but a father now whose presence is strictly limited to that of memories and in photographs. Enter Ezri (Danker), a student in his early twenties whom has recently been flitting from place-to-place whilst trying to keep up with his studies; a man whom will come to play a large part in Aaron's life in the near future. Initially somewhat muted when on screen together, Aaron hires the young man as an apprentice in order to show him the basic routines of butchery; each hammer blow that comes down out of Ezri's swinging of the cleaver bringing about a terrific 'thump' on the wooden board. His freshness at wielding such a tool and the might with which he is operating it, what with his other hand in such close proximity, going on to neatly epitomise the danger the film will go on to carry - a 'close-to-all-but-disastrous-results' sensation which will surely come about if something goes wrong both in this new role and if certain revelations cannot be kept from the masses.

The men share some common ground just as much as the film enjoys establishing them as the binary opposites to one another. As a student, Ezri has committed most of his life to studying, whereas Aaron has done anything but although confirms that he would certainly like to. Ezri's wincing at the sight of what it is a butcher does is simply part-and-parcel of life to Aaron whereas Aaron's devout attention to religion is exemplified during a process of prayer in a local place of worship, something in stark comparison to Ezri who merely sleeps through such a gathering as everyone else of his ilk appear thoroughly into proceedings. When Ezri first enters the butcher's shop, he is rightfully wet-through due to the aforementioned rain; Aaron has had time to dry and the distinction between the men in their appearance in this regard strikes us. It is only much later on during which both men have arrived at a local spring, as their relationship develops, when the pair of them at once become as wet as Ezri was during that initial confrontation, the marking of Aaron in a similar manner symptomatic of his changing feelings and shifting onto a plain similar to that of Ezri in terms of akin homosexuality.

It is established Aaron is not a man whom is particularly scared to stand up to authority or a predominant voice, especially one within the community when he challenges a local Rabbi, who was an old friend of his father's, on certain theological views. Aaron's going against the distinguished norm here is later a characteristic he very much takes on to a further level in his coming together with Ezri. During another sequence, the verbal highlighting of Aaron's actions as that of dangerous or would-be scornful within the community is put across during a car journey; the Rabbi's pointing out of another young local boy and the subsequent labelling him as a "trouble-maker" is another example of where the nature of ill-advised relationships with others gets you within the community; his crime being the pursuing of a girl out of love with tendencies to stalk. As loose connections grow into greater unifiers, so does the film as the substantial and engrossing tale it is; Aaron's slow disenchantment at his family and life as a husband is highlighted in the bringing together of two single beds whilst with his wife, and yet it is inferred that very little happens. This could be seen in binary opposition to the two male leads, whom both share common ground in that when they initially meet, the pair of them are in the process of slipping out of a close bond or powerful tie with a gentlemen that meant a lot to them: Ezri's with a male partner we later hear him leave whilst on the phone and Aaron with his grief at loosing his father.

Director Haim Tabakman, running off of a Merav Doster screenplay, brings his characters together and explores in an absorbing and riveting fashion their back-stories plus behaviours before having that equality ruptured in a refreshing and dramatically involving way. Where many recent Isreali films have documented the past or certain other difficult, grizzly issues on the minds of Isrealis or Isreali communities, namely the Lebenon-set wars in films ranging from Beaufort to Waltz With Bashir, Eyes Wide Open explores another issue of immense controversy in the form of homosexuality and turning away from one's faith for personalised happiness within the said culture and does so wonderfully well.
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10/10
A masterpiece of reserve and soulfulness
Dr_Coulardeau3 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Such cruelty is unimaginable, but so close to us. We are in a Jewish community in Jerusalem, one of these communities that live by the Torah a life totally locked up in that logic. A man gets married, has children, works all his life, goes to the synagogue every single time it is necessary, celebrates Sabbath, dresses the proper way, speaks proper language, kisses the jamb of the door when he is coming in or going out of a house, apartment or store. That's a very routine-like life that does not accept anything that goes against this routine, these rules, this pre-formatted life. If the man is a butcher his whole life and his family's depend on the community that must be convinced that he is pure, he is no sinner. And sin is all-pervading in this community. The result is sad in many ways: it is absolute solitude right in the midst and the heart of a human community, a solitude that kills the heart and the soul because the only thing that this man may desire is forbidden, and that is love, love from an equal, love from a man, love from another human being made in the image of God. That forbidden love is divine because it brings together two direct representatives of God, sons of God, Adam and Adam, full equality, the supreme desire of love, to love your equal, to love yourself in the other and let the other love himself in you. But that kind of love is banned by the Torah (Leviticus 18:22, "You must not lie with a man as with a woman. This is a hateful thing." Leviticus 20:13, "The man who lies with a man in the same way as with a woman: they have done a hateful thing together; they must die, their blood shall be on their own heads.") But at the same time the butcher Aaron who accepts Ezri under his roof is then in a serious dilemma when the people around him start being menacing and aggressive because in Genesis 19:5-8 it is said: "They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof." And this means Aaron has to protect Ezri. But nothing is that simple and Ezri who has no one except Aaron will leave to enable Aaron to live in peace. But Aaron will not be able to live in that peace. The end is sad, very sad. This film is about that kind of bigotry against gay people, or even nothing but gay desire in the name of a law that is in pure contradiction with the famous Lot story that brings God's fire onto Sodom: the people in Sodom did not respect the law of hospitality, and history repeats itself. The people of this community did not respect the law of hospitality either, but God seemingly brought his fire down onto the host and the guest. Sodom upside down in a way, though in perfect order according to the Torah in another way. There could be a third way but it would mean to leave the community, wife, children. But we can wonder if the departing Ezri and the departed Aaron have not done just that. The film is great because it is delicate, slow and entirely introspective to the point of making the story unreal, at least to our eyes that are wide open and can't see no justice in that law of fire. When one was stoned to death in Jerusalem in the old days, he had to be thrown over the wall of the city, he had to dig his own grave in which he was buried up to the shoulders and then the people could stone him to death, at least that's how James, Jesus' eldest brother was executed. Times may have changed but our stoning techniques are maybe less brutal or bloody but they are just as effective.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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6/10
Collision of religion and sexuality in the Orthodox Jewish world
larry-41125 September 2009
I attended the North American Premiere of "Eyes Wide Open" at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. This is a somewhat provocative yet understated examination of what it's like to be gay in the Orthodox Jewish world. In his first feature, director Haim Tabakman, working from a Merav Doster script, introduces us to Aaron (Zohar Shtrauss) and Ezri (Ran Danker). Aaron runs a Kosher butcher shop that's been in the family for generations. Ezri is an outsider, already under suspicion for questionable behavior, who enters Aaron's world with possible intentions beyond purchasing a hunk of meat. There's a joke there but I'll resist. The cultural constraints placed upon gays, or anyone who is different, are painfully drawn out as the neighbors decide what actions to take. The Orthodox Jewish community sends in its own goons (enforcers of God?).

This character-driven film is haunting and poignant. Like many foreign films, natural lighting is predominant. The cinema verité style, without regard to shadows, is much more powerful than images in traditional Hollywood movies -- provided the images aren't too dark -- a problem I've seen here with some films. The score is used sparsely, only to punctuate the more emotional moments. The pace is slow and deliberate, while long takes with little dialogue allow the actors to speak with their eyes, facial movements, and body language.

The collision of religion and sexuality is a common theme at every film festival. What is the meaning of restraint? Are we really being true to God if we destroy ourselves in the process?
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We're made witness to a Fall into.....
arizona-philm-phan6 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
.....Passion.........then carried along through the mores and strictures of a religious sect foreign to most of us, until we reach a Devastating Ending. The devastating (only word that fits) sense of loss and despair breathed by Shakespeare into a centuries earlier "Romeo & Juliet" is in no way greater than the sense of loss and despair created by the religious, non-accepting fervor we see directed at the two "Romeos" of this film. It is enough to make any understanding viewer weep.

(( Because, what do you do.......what can you do.....when in those first few instants of meeting, you know.....absolutely know, "The Temptation" is there?! ))

As an aside, if you're considering watching a movie like this, then possibly you are of a "certain persuasion." That being perhaps the case, please play a little simulation with me.....a little game of suppose or what if. Alrighty, then. Now, consider yourself and someone you've come to know, perhaps a longtime friend or fellow worker.....maybe a member of your club.....your pick-up sports group. You're in a little game of one-on-one, possibly out on a hike, swimming in a stream pool together, sharing a tent.....when.....Suddenly, you begin sensing a difference in your thoughts about him---maybe even feeling that something similar is occurring on his part.....OR, as in the case of this film's story, you find yourselves in a 2-person workplace, alone and away from the eyes and ears of others, just trying to get the job done. AND, in helping each other move equipment and work supplies around, you notice your fingers touching in handing items one to the other.....there is a brushing of arms as you pass. THEN comes a stillness and closeness in the space you're occupying with this other person.....and those sensations begin magnifying, pushing you into a mentally agitated state.....your eyes sweep around, but always return to that other person.....you have to move and nervously pace a bit.....all these things occurring as you feel your senses jumping into overdrive. Even more, there's a thrumming within your body which is growing.....growing; your skin nerve-ends begin experiencing, like, tiny electrical waves. Uncontrollably, your eyes are drawn, as by magnets, to those of the other person.....you cannot look away.....and it seems neither can he. It is now that you find yourself moving toward the one who has become the center of everything happening to you. At last, in this very instant, the two of you are reaching out with your hands, eyes locked.....FINALLY, they touch........And then it happens.

As for some specifics on this movie, at its heartrending core are a main and a secondary lead whose performances could hardly be bettered. They wonderfully play two men for whom the briefest and smallest of smiles seems the norm for expressing some bit of happiness in their closed-in existence. Yet there are rare in-public times (but only when they are together) when we witness instances of laughing camaraderie, which seem to lighten their societally controlled lives. And, yes, there are times we cry for them as we realize their moments of "bliss" in coupling are likely to be short-lived.

A couple of things to specifically watch for:

-- The most heart-stopping moment in the film comes as our main lead is being pummeled, shouted at and questioned by his own religious leader over what's seen as his "unacceptable relationship and activity" with another. Then, of a sudden, Aaron surges back, blurting out: "I WAS DEAD......AND NOW I'M ALIVE!"

-- A group bullying scene, as the film's last 10 minutes begin, will break your heart. To this viewer, it not only "symbolizes" the beginning of the end (in the very worst sense), but actually "is" the beginning of the end. Watching the eyes and body positions assumed by our leads in these filmed moments will tear you apart----for the realization hits us that a tearing apart is precisely what is happening.

There is only one DVD Special Feature to speak of---a Director Interview (possibly English not being a first language accounts for a less than smooth presentation of ideas). Consisting of a series of questions asked, they include: director's background (non-gay and non-religious individual), to include his filmmaking history / the philosophy and thinking behind this film / effect of low budget on sticking to script / political and national implications of the film within the Nation of Israel. Nothing is provided concerning interrelationship of the two male leads during filming----something that would have been of interest to, at least, this viewer. Sadly, there is no during-the-film commentary.

****
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8/10
stark simple tale
manschelde-16 October 2010
A simple story, gently told, in a stark setting of almost medieval religiosity.

I'm middle-aged gay European agnostic from Christian background and found this film enchanting and entertaining although sombre and downbeat.

The 'purity police' were scary talibanesque types: you will comply or else. I did not know about such compliance methods in Judaism.

The intolerance towards the 'seducer' gay man was ugly, so far removed from secular/reform attitudes around me.

The main character (the butcher Aaron) was unfulfilled after siring four children and still having a loving and beautiful wife, felt 'dead inside'.

But was that from the recent loss of his father, or some other reasons than just lust?
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Jewish 'Brokeback' without the cowboys
laura_macleod11 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Eyes Wide Open is a really depressing film and not because of the sexuality and the suppression but because of the religious and cultural straightjackets that those people live in. I found it fascinating to observe the lack of beauty in the film. Everything was drab and breaking down. Everyone was in black or covered or not seen. They came alive through their religious ideology in a man's world - women were not present in the teaching and the camaraderie. To be a good man meant to work and have no joy, just read the religious dogma. This is surely an advertisement for why this kind of ideology causes conflict as it is not harmonious to life or the purpose of life = to find happiness (as spoken by one of the world's greatest philosophers - Aristotle). The woman was just there to care for the house and the family and to have children and be a sexual vessel to be honest. Then along comes a homosexual element and a man who challenges the sickness in the society and all the hangups. Of course it is very traumatic for any community stuck in the dark ages to have a 'heretic' in their midst, especially a gay one. Eyes Wide Open is a very good title because all the people in this film go around with their eyes firmly shut to life and its beauty and freedom (god given to everyone). Human beings cause all the problems, not god if it exists - how do any of us really know? The feeling of the sexuality is hidden and dirty and done in the midst of a butcher's shop with dead carcasses all around. The metaphor is vivid. However, the film is bleak and there is only way way out for the protagonist and it is a sad conclusion. Just throughout the film I was yearning for them both to break free of the cultural and mental straightjacket that was self inflicted - tear off those black outfits, throw the hats to the wind and get on an aeroplane to somewhere in the world where they both could live what 'god' had made them for - happiness and love. Felt very sorry for the wife though but she was a stuck sheep. There was no way out of this eyes wide open film - the cultural burden was sadly too heavy and that made the film leave a bad taste in the mouth in spite of its breakthrough subject matter.
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Wrestling with the Angel
sandover21 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
In chapter 32 of Genesis we learn how Jacob earned the name of Israel. This is the scene, according to the King James version:

[...] And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.

I want to suggest that the right way to appreciate "Eyes Wide Open"'s story and, especially, its peculiar pitch, is to view it as a modern day version of Jacob's wrestling with - Angel, man, or God, the original language spares us the need to specify between the three.

So, why such a viewing? Aaron, an orthodox Jewish butcher, a man that as his name suggests is a mountain of strength, a mountain of a somewhat melancholic strength, decides to re-open his father's shop. We never learn as things progress up to what degree his stance is determined by clauses of mourning his father, and this is a dramatic ambiguity, to call it that, I appreciated. It is something I will return to.

Next, enter Ezri a handsome young man who contrasts to Aaron right from the start, in a way that signified, at least for this viewer, the precariousness of the face. Ezri seems at a loss, and Aaron tacitly asks the stranger, guessing on his rootless state. Ezri leaves abruptly, in order to visit another orthodox Jew, arguably a lover that denies him, and, to cut the story short, Aaron takes Ezri as an employee.

We then witness readings of the Torah, and Aaron's interpretation that runs counter to the rabbi's exegesis on matters of hardship. We should love the hard part, is the gist of what Aaron says, it is the hard part, the obstacle, that makes love love. This is a good counterpoint to silent long takes, when it is sometimes difficult to scrutinize what happens in the protagonists' heart and mind. But, I add right away, this is sometimes the point: what is for us the admirable adventure of plunging into the other's abysmal gaze or face, is also the limit that makes intimacy and privacy significant.

Aaron's appreciation of hardship, and God's rough love erupts in a speech after rebuking Ezri's advances, but soon afterwards gives in. The rare happy moments occur in the synagogue and during Aaron's family table, that is inside a community.

But the community grows reserved, then hostile; presumably the orthodox ex has spread the word about Ezri doing "a lot of charities." This is echoed in the gradual bashing of a neighboring grocer because he serially degrades the daughter of a respectable member of the community. Throughout the film there is a fine balance between the intimate and the communal accent, perhaps sometimes a bit too cool a balance.

But then you have that stunning shot when Aaron, in front of his butchery's shop, cannot go on because he has a family, and Ezri responds that he has only him - then, after just the right amount of words we wanted to listen to, a van passes and upon his panes an ominous group of orthodox Jews is reflected, as a chorus in a Greek tragedy.

But to cut to the chase, the most peculiar scene in the film is the exchange between Aaron and the rabbi, after things have turned nasty with rumors and talk that amounts to gangster-like, secular threats. What strikes us is the non-melodramatic voicing. "I am alive, I need him" he exclaims at odds with the way it is put to these words. And then the rabbi, peculiarly, nods in recognition, if not in acknowledgment of Aaron's stand.

At this point I realized this is a new version of wrestling with the angel, and here I want to applaud the magnificently spare script, with its spiritual care and yearning.

"I am alive, I need him," he says. He has seen the face of God, and has survived, like Jacob. He was dead, like his father, but now the name of his father can speak through him. It is also a shocking declaration because this "need" has all the unabashed, indeed obscene glow of being alive because of love. Or is it just lust? The film thankfully breaks down any dissociation between the two. Watch how Aaron clenches close-up his angel the moment he abandons him, just after they have mutely acknowledged their love ("I know," says Ezri); this is affecting and uncanny. It can also be helplessly funny if one thinks that Ezri, as his name suggests, did not help anyone.

The film ends as Aaron halts to a ritual bath to purge himself and vanishes underwater. Why hint at suicide? This needless dramatic gesture literally denies the blessing, which means more life. It has to be this way? I wonder. Still, the film stands as a powerful ruining of the sacred truths running gender and religious persuasions that separate God and sexuality.
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8/10
A thoughtful and mature drama
StrontiumAE12 October 2010
When I think of gay cinema, campy titles Too Wong Fu or I Love You Phillip Morris comes to mind, and so I am usually put off the idea of watching. However Eyes Wide Open is something totally different and quite intelligent. Here, life in a Jerusalem community is disrupted by the arrival of a young 'unorthodox' Orthodox Jewish student who proceeds to seduce an older Jewish Orthodox man, who is married with four children. The narrative follows the progress of this conflicted husband coping with what is essentially a midlife crisis, while having to deal with the relationship issues of his neighbor's daughter, whose open 'secret' affair with her boyfriend begins to mirror the problems developing in his own life.

Employing a minimalist feel supported by a soundtrack reminiscent Soderbergh's Solaris and incorporating the use of washed-out colors and stark lighting to convey a bleak realism, Eyes Wide Open's over the top premise is dealt with realistically and intelligently, never once turning the story into a tabloid spectacle. Although a lack of dialog from the main characters makes it difficult for the audience to truly understand their motivation, the story still provides an interesting insight into the moral conflicts some individuals may face, while being true to their family and themselves.

The only beef I have with this film is its 12 rating. There is some full nudity and a sex scene or two, which should have automatically given it a higher rating. Although its tastefully done and not pornographic in the least... it can make for an awkward viewing experience if watched with kids or someone more conservative.

Check my profile for my blog and more reviews of Middle Eastern and Western Cinema.
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8/10
Fine film, but I wish it conveyed more about the issues behind the story
clivy19 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There are many fine reviews here on IMDb of Eyes Wide Open. I would like to add my viewpoint regarding the film.

I recognised the neighbourhood where "Eyes Wide Open" takes place. When I was a teenager my parents sent me to Israel to study with a program for high school students.While we studied we traveled around the country. One weekend we were taken to Jerusualem to see Mea Shearim, the Hasidic neighbourhood. The other girls and I were told to make sure we looked modestly dressed. We saw graffiti on the walls like the posters in the movie that denounce sinners (the graffiti, the teachers told us, criticised a man for not giving a get, a consent to his wife for a divorce).

During the scenes showing Aaron with his wife in their bedroom I remembered how I joked with my friends in Israel about how the ultra religious Jews make love through a sheet with a hole in it. Aaron and his wife act like some of the negative stereotypes we heard about: embarrassed about sex but having it to fulfil the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. There's no indication of how long they have been married, but they have four small children . The wife at first invites sex by telling Aaron she's been to the milkveh- in other words, she's ritually clean and it's okay for Aaron to touch her. She has lovely blonde hair but she has to wear a wig in public, or a wrap over her hair, so she shouldn't be a temptation to men. The young woman who runs the shop opposite from Aaron's butcher store has to obey her father and get engaged to his choice for her - I winced when the plate was dropped at her engagement party, signalling that the commitment was made, and there was no going back on it, like the plate now broken which couldn't be put back together. There's more than one person in this film who's shattered.

Aaron's wife is saintly. She's kind and patient with him, preparing dinner for him, keeping it warm it for him when he finally turns up late at night. She knows what's going on and where he's been, and sits waiting for him, reading her prayer book.

I was fascinated by how people can live a life committed to God and their beliefs. I realised I couldn't live a pious life. Following all the rules- having to consider every decision about how I acted, down to what I ate and what I wore - would make me feel suffocated. And as a woman, I wouldn't be able to fully participate in what drew me to orthodoxy and Hasidim: my religious life would be in the home, centred on making the household and the food kosher and raising and teaching children the laws of Jewish life. I couldn't sit with the rabbi and join the study group. Note that at her party the young woman is standing apart from her fiancé and the other men. The women are separated from the men by a barrier. They are kept in their own domain, even if, like the young woman, they're running their family's business. Notice that no one comes to her to discuss her behaviour and her choices- they visit her boyfriend and threaten to beat him up if he doesn't leave her alone. Only Aaron dares to ask how he feels about her, if he loves her, if his intentions are honourable. It's unthinkable that the girl and the man she favours could marry against her father's wishes. Their ultimate threat is beating him in front of his mother. His mother acts like she doesn't know what's happening, perhaps she has dementia.

Aaron's world is a male world, which makes it ironic that he's threatened with excommunication for daring to express sexuality - sexuality towards another other man.

I discovered during my university religion courses that the Torah and the Talmud aren't against the body. the stereotype of the sheet with a hole in it is one prejudiced against the ultra religious (note that Aaron's last name is Fleischman- meaning, "meat man". He's a butcher and a man of the flesh, the body) Men are commanded to make to love their wives, and to give them pleasure. But sexual passion is for husband and wife; sex outside of marriage is a sin for both partners.

I wish "Eyes Wide Open" conveyed more about the restrictions of the religious life and the issues behind the story. The ending of the film is heartbreaking. I also wish Aaron had the courage to grab Ezri and leave with him. But where would they go? There's no possibility for them to continue living as they want to.

I've heard over the years reports of tension between the religious communities and the liberal and secular groups in Israeli society; I remember a sermon by a rabbi in a progressive synagogue I attended about the past weeks' events in a Jerusalem neighbourhood: members of one Hassidic group had harassed people in for playing music in a restaurant on a Friday night, for violating the Sabbath by opening a business and using electronic devices. There are synagogues and Jewish groups in Israel and in the US that welcome gay people.

Yet, even if Aaron and Ezri decide to leave and find a community that accepts their relationship, they would have to live with the loss of everything they've ever known. Aaron would never be able to see his children again; his family would live in the shadow of the sins he's committed, including abandonment.

They visit the spring to purify themselves, like how Aaron's wife visits the mikveh to make herself pure after her period is over. It's sad that they can't stay in the wilderness where there is no one else and no judgment.
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8/10
As Sad and Complex as Real Life
Eschete19 April 2010
I just saw this at the Minneapolis-St. Paul film festival. A powerful, relentless film that seems to imply, if I can trust my instincts, that "falling in love" is a spiritual phenomenon devoid of gender considerations. Now, I may disagree with this personally, but the director makes such a powerful case for it that it is entertaining to watch.

Also implied is the message that repression produces the opposite effect in the long run...

In the film, a super-fundamentalist butcher in an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood meets and falls for another man, despite the social and even physical danger. The scene in which the two meet is shot in such a way that even we heterosexuals in the audience can understand. The young apprentice enters from a pouring rain with a cherubic, earnest look on his face and, for just a second, what the director is trying to say echoes in everyone watching.

The scenes between the butcher and his plain yet somehow beautiful and patient wife become more tense and more poignant, even as they become more and more muted.

Overall, this was an excellent film. I gave it four out of five on my ballot.

Things to watch for: Pool of Siloam, frank but not disgusting sex scenes. A-
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6/10
Eyes Wide Open
lasttimeisaw20 May 2011
Recently I've watched several gay-themed films from a few under-developed fields (cinema- wise), PLAN B (2009) from Argentina, UNDERTOW (2009) from Peru and this one from Israel.

A Jewish gay story of a married gay man in the closet, the confrontation between sexuality and religion is the momentum pushing the film trudge slowly against time (though the entire film only lasts 90 minutes).

What's the novelty here? The narrative is being exaggerated minimized, it is the arresting camera work lingers since the very first shot, with a precision of the framing whereby the language of camera is ample. which fabricate a haunting Jerusalem with its patient pace.

The denouement is metaphorically ambiguous, I am not going to spoil it here, which does heave the whole film onto an unconventional category, a self-indulgent commitment, luckily, not too opaque.

The film is the feature debut of the rookie director Haim Tabakman and the obscure cast (a subtle performance from Zohar Shtrauss and a young and raw Ran Danker) furnishes the film with a frank and sincere tangibility. Damn, I wish the film could be more dauntless and detailed.

The world of Jews is nowhere near my real life, which has inevitably hindered my comprehension here, substantially the religious part. I could only acknowledge that the film owns its glamor in his paper-thin structure, which is a sturdy move for a new director.
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10/10
i extremly love it !
mohammadalwanne28 January 2019
I know nothing about jews or Israel, actually i'm an arab man and here we know no thing about the israeli movies at first i love the story and deep drama and great script, actors were good and i really dont know what i say ! this movie is one of my best
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9/10
Excellent acting, excellent LGBT movie.
OrlandoAT20 November 2014
A great, very well acted, writed and filmed movie. A emotional trip that even brings us a reflection: the complexity of being gay in the very different cultures all over the world and the complexity of being who you really want to be. No doubt, a beautiful joy of the LGBT cinema. The film has a very polished cadence, and a very polished end too. Two points that make it shine. Actors do well. Dominate their characters in a realistic, touching and very natural way. The acting is another great achievement of this production. And since this is a drama, action causes the script to succeed. It is difficult to say whether a wider audience can enjoy this movie (which is already addressed to the gay community); should be, because the emotions it reflects are universal and represent social repression, which in many countries is still a common denominator.
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a trip
Vincentiu1 February 2012
emotion. as silk ladder. a love story in forbidden area. religion and relationship. nude tale about two different men and their sin/error/adventure/crazy act. few words. drops of gestures, looks and shadows of feelings. ball of sadness and strange happiness, vulnerabilities, courage and fear. a white paper and crumbs of letters. a stranger as seed of a dangerous experience. family, society and a young man from nowhere to nowhere. a ritual bath and work in a kosher meat shop. death of father and new forms of beginning. fragility of old world and ambiguous place in tradition circle. it is not a movie about gay love but only love. it is not a movie about Juwish traditional laws but only picture of a closed society. it is not just a movie. but images of a trip behind ordinary expectations.
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10/10
Excellent movie
danielw-4988422 February 2020
Another great gay themed movie from Israel. Excellent plot and production all around.
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5/10
just passable till the end I didn't got what Aaron was thinking the whole time... lack of words is the major flaw of the movie.
saadgkhan24 December 2010
Einayim Petukhoth - EYES WIDE OPEN – CATCH IT ( B- ) Einayim Petukhoth is my first ever Israeli movie so, I was quite psyched about it. The movie starts off quite strong and I was stunned how strongly the Jew Culture was presented in the entire movie. (To be honest Being a Muslim its kind of made me Guilty). Later on movie got really slow and when Aaron falls for Azri, it was never showed in a lot of words what they actually feel about each other? is it love or just Lust? And why Aaron became so Oblivion that he doesn't care when posters against him were pasted all over the city? Plus he refuses to kick Azri out from his Butcher house too. These things were did put pressure on me as a viewer but somehow till the end I didn't understand what exactly Aaron was thinking? He is the father of four kids for God's Sack. Though the material was controversial but lack of Communication/Feelings between Aaron & Azri was my biggest problem with the movie. So in the end it was just passable for me. Zohar Shtrauss, Ran Danker and Tinkerbell were exceptional in their parts, no two words about that! In my final words watch it for the taboo topic in very strong cultural setting & great performances BUT it's not a master piece.
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9/10
Love lies lost
dakjets22 August 2016
I accidentally came across this film. Being sick, and at home from work. At the sofa watching daytime telly, this film was shown. I was totally drawn to this simple, strong tale about love between to men. I rarely see so honest and well done films like this, and extra special that it is a film from Israel. They are seldom, at least in my country.

I won't give anything away from the story. It is very powerful, in it's simple and quit way. Very strong performances from the actors, and it shows strong emotions, and a hopeless love affair, that the environment just won't allow.

I surly will check out more films from Israel after this very good drama. I recommend it. Maybe it should be shown in schools too, in a educational purpose?
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a meeting
Kirpianuscus2 November 2015
only story of a meeting. not different by many others. but special for the circle of community who is used as scene. a film who has not great heroes and, maybe, not a touching love story. only the clash between family, passion and need to be fair to law, family, yours feelings. result - a beautiful film. not spectacular but almost strange. for the dialog who preserves shadows of taboo. for the characters who seems be sketches of theirs desires. for the delicate manner to translate slices of silence in image and word. for the tension who is different by the films from the same genre. the delicacy used for present the story. that is the basic virtue. and the key for a film who has force for the wise exploration of fragility of an relationship.
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8/10
good movie typical ending
filmalamosa1 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
In a conservative orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem a young man looking for a job applies at a butcher shop. The butcher hires him and eventually becomes attracted to him and becomes his lover. Traditional Jewish sensibilities condemn this and the end is tragic.

Mostly an excellent movie with great views of Israel.

The conservative orthodox communities prejudice was probably also a bit exaggerated for 2012 liberal Israel. After all Israel lets gays serve in the military openly a mistake I feel.

RECOMMEND
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Affected Bressonianism?
Capo-idFilm24 May 2010
Understated, impressionist drama in which the two central performances and the effective, naturally-lit photography are let down by too many scenes of stilted silence; it's quite alright to make a point of people not understanding one another, but too much contemporary art cinema seems to rely on an affected Bressonianism that doesn't quite gel with surrounding authenticity. The starkest example here is a scene in which a character tries to explain the excitement he feels from an adulterous affair: "I was dead," he says. "Now I feel alive." Even excusing the trite phrasing, the line doesn't quite ring true given how flat, lifeless and unchanged the character has previously seemed. Perhaps, of course, that's the point; but that doesn't make the film any stronger.
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5/10
Falls short of being even a good film
pik92324 November 2010
Unfortunately, as in many films coming from Israel there are deep flaws in the making of the film. For some reason the Israeli film industry loves to make films focusing on the Orthodox community and setting up a rather bland love affair between two religious men - well it becomes so ordinary and so expected. There is nothing interesting, no drama, no dynamics, no ups and downs. All that talent and it goes nowhere. The acting is poor, and I blame that on the director. I'm not sure what the point of the story is. Forbidden love? Of course it is forbidden but this is not a love story. And in many ways too unrealistic to even give it any weight.

I feel bad that with some much talent in Israel, in all aspects of film making so few really good solid films are actually produced. Instead, just because it is about homosexuality and set in the Orthodox community every one gets a bit excited! But it has nothing to do with film making.
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4/10
Fascinating story, forlorn execution
dharmendrasingh18 November 2010
My first real insight into Jewish culture came when I read Mark Twain's eulogy on the subject. His lapidary essay talked of their (Jews') contributions to society being 'extravagantly out of proportion with the smallness of their bulk'. I was stunned then, and I continue to be awed by this meritorious minority. It was with some ambivalence then, that I decided to see Haim Tabakman's 'Eyes Wide Open', a film about forbidden love set amongst an Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem.

Aaron Fleischman (Zohar Shtrauss) is ascetic and respected by his peers. He has a solid family unit, but there is a profound void in his life. He reopens his late father's butchers and finds he needs help. Enter Ezri (Ran Danker), a winsome, wandering student, whom Aaron hires, ostensibly to get closer to God.

The assumption is that Ezri is already gay. He has a past and the rumour is that he is a 'curse to righteous men'. At first, Aaron rejects Ezri's advances. He says, without believing it himself, that 'God created lust for catharsis of the soul'. But soon they are closing early to engage in acts of licentious carnality.

I found the under-acting, especially by Aaron, deeply irritating. Sure, he meant to convey an unspoken love, but he is never anything but aloof. Perhaps that was the intention. The few ethical debates Aaron has with his Rabbi are interesting (the Rabbi believes that alcohol can be consumed because 'God does not want us to suffer').

With more impassioned acting and more set pieces (instead of the myriad shots of meat being chopped), it could have rivalled 'Brokeback Mountain' or 'My Beautiful Laundrette'. If nothing else, it was captivating to explore the world of this private, but extraordinary people.

There was no need whatever for the full-on nudity in the final scene. Have we come to the point where we think that 12-year-olds can see absolutely anything and not be affected? It's surprising it didn't cause an outcry. 'Brokeback' had suspense and excitement, 'Laundrette' was fearless. With my eyes wide open, I couldn't see what this film had to offer.

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