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Berlinale winner "Synonymes": How do I get rid of myself?


In Nadav Lapid's furious Golden Bear winner "Synonymes", a young Israeli is trying hard to reinvent himself in Paris. A tumult of words, images and desires - our film of the week.

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Once Yoav stands alone in front of Notre Dame at night. With an imaginary submachine gun, he shoots at the towers of the Paris Cathedral. As if he knew for a long time that the sacred symbols of our culture will not last much longer.

The Air Palace shootout is one of the images with which Nadav Lapid turns a private psycho box into cultural criticism. As disturbing as it is humorous, abstract yet poetic. With "Synonymes", the Israeli director presented a film at this year's Berlinale, which stood out due to its stubborn attitude and scenes like these. And won the Golden Bear.

"Synonymes" is about identity. Can one get rid of oneself and then reinvent oneself? Is someone turning around here or does he just play crazy? Lapid gives no final answers. He doubts, keeps looking, and above all finds a fascinating form for his film.

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Film drama: In the struggle with one's own identity

Everything revolves around Yoav, a young Israeli whom actor Tom Mercier embodies in his first movie role with hypnotic presence. He promenades in Paris in the yolk-yellow designer coat, buttoned, head down. He murmurs French word chains: abominable, pathetic, lamentable, repugnant. So Yoav perceived his life in Israel, which he wants to leave behind - and the reliable, the more he denies it.

Yoav decides not to speak a word of Hebrew anymore. Not even when he takes on a job as a security guard at the Israeli embassy to finance the rent for his shack and the same kind of cheap food. After he flies out at the embassy for his quirks and seeks work as a model, he is even thrown back on his origins in absurd porn shoots. "What am I doing here? Cock, cock! Leave me!" He groans in Hebrew, while the French cameraman is delighted with this intense climax.

Original title: "Synonymes"
F 2019
Director: Nadav Lapid
Book: Nadav Lapid, Haim Lapid
Performers: Tom Mercier, Quentin Dolmaire, Louise Chevillotte, Uria Hayik, Yehuda Almagor
Production: SBS Films, Pie Films, accomplices Film et al.
Distribution: Grand film
Length: 123 minutes
FSK: from 12 years
Start: 5th September 2019

The camera does not dodge Yoav for two hours trying to lose herself and find himself new. Again and again she really gets on his nerves. His increasingly disillusioning experiences are told episodically. The chronology is as unreliable as the memory, the film language rather essay than drama, the mood tragicomic. Some scenes dissolve the protagonist's constant tension in grotesque humor. For example, when a job interview turns into a homoerotic rant. Or when Yoav suddenly celebrates a mop dance to Technotronics "Pump Up The Jam" in search of a free snack in a bar.

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Berlinale winner Nadav Lapid "I had to leave to save my soul"

Even the rebirth that Yoav experiences as soon as he arrives - he loses all his belongings and almost freezes to death in the bathtub of a large, empty apartment - is an event that throws him back to his family history. His grandfather would also be almost frozen, he tells the couple who saves him. He (Quentin Dolmaire) is a wannabe writer who does not know where to go with his parents' money. She (Louise Chevillotte) wants to forget her wild teenage years with classical music. Both suffer from the boredom of their own lives and see in the mysterious newcomer a pastime. He falls in love with Yoav and devours his biography like a vampire. Nevertheless, in the end she sleeps with him.

Just as Yoav wants to mutate into the perfect Frenchman, so Nadav Lapid becomes the revenant of Jean-Luc Godard. With the difference that Lapid is quite convincing. The film does not make its main character comprehensible by ingratiating identification, but by declamation.

Yoav's disintegration seems more like a simultaneity of contradictions than a consequence of biographical stations. In this respect, a scene from an integration course in which the national anthems of Israel and France are treated is particularly urgent. Yoav loudly carries the "Marseillaise" - and crumbles it with his exuberance.

In the video: The trailer for "Synonymes"


Grand movie

Lapid updates methods of nouvelle vague and sharpens the focus on the crisis of an individual's view of fundamentals. Identity as a central aspect of political discussions, the themes of nationalism and anti-Semitism resonate with Yoav's yearning for a different life.

"Synonymes" shows how someone fights against biographical imprints and attributions from the outside and it is not so easy to get rid of them. Neither with another language nor with a new coat.

Source: spiegel

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