GOD OF THE PIANO (Elohe HaPsanter)
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Itay Tal
Writer: Itay Tal
Cast: Naama Preis, Andy Levi, Ze’ev Shimshoni, Ron Bitterman, Shimon Mimran, Leora Rivlin, Alon Openhaim, Eli Gornstein, Itay Zipor, Ezra Dagan, Ami Weinberg, Omer Migram
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/4/20
Opens: September 18, 2020
“God of the Piano” is not a psychological thriller, not a horror thriller, not even a political thriller (despite its Israeli origin), yet you may find youself are eager to watch its trajectory, to wonder how things will turn out, to be involved in each twist and turn without being able to predict it. Written and directed by Itay Tal in her freshman contribution, the film not only has wonderful snippets of music and a near-worship of a gifted prepubescent pianist, but is most of all a study of a woman who lives through her little genius, pushing him relentlessly to the end of nurturing his talent while at the same time being guilty of inflicted psychological abuse on the young man. If you’re a real film buff you can’t help noting at least some similarly with the theme of Denis Dercourt’s “La tourneuse de pages,” about an unusual stroke of revenge by a girl who failed an audition.
The story is anchored by a chilly performance from Naama Preis as Anat, a concert pianist from a family that’s all about music, so much so that when a pregnant Anat breaks water during a concert, she continues her performance, and when riding in the back seat of a car on the way to the hospital, she notes that her brother and father ups front talk not about her nor do they ask how she’s doing but instead discuss the technique of the pianist who performs for them on the radio.
Learning with trepidation that her newborn is deaf, a defect that would prevent him from getting anywhere near the heights that Anat is hoping for the boy, she cautiously switches wrist bands in the hospital and takes home a normal, healthy child. Now Anat had never reached the heights that her teacher, Arieh (Ze’ev Shimshoni) had hoped for her. There lies all the more reason that she is devoting her life to her “son” Idan (Omer Migram as a baby, Itay Zipor at a 5-year-old, and Andy Levy at the age of 12).
You probably know some fathers and mothers who, like Anat, live through their children, perhaps those who never went to college but are putting their hopes on their youths to be the firsts in the families to do so. In fact Anat is so wrapped up in her misguided devotion to Idan that she refuses to let the 12-year-old go on a school outing because that would take two days away from his rehearsing for an audition. Nor does she have shame in seducing Raphael (Shimon Mimran), a great composer, to get from him corrections to her boy’s composition. Even Arieh barks at her “Have you no shame” when she visits him at his home with the boy, only to hear why Idan was not accepted.
What about the infant, her biological child, whom she knew for but two days in the hospital and who seems to have disappeared from the movie? You’ll have to wait awhile, but the picture is only eighty minutes long and, given the piano music that delights the ear now and then should have gone on for another half hour.
We will look forward to the next entry from writer-director Itay Tal, who has done well in casting Naama Preis (an Israeli wife in Mike Burstyn’s “Azimuth”) for the principal role.
In Hebrew with English subtitles.
80 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+