|'The quietness of Sivan's film has the effect of allowing you to entirely absorb into the narrative.'
Presented in pin-sharp black and white, with only diegetic sound, Avishai Sivan's Tikkun (which means fixing or rectification) has been noted for awards at other festivals around Europe this year. It is, to some degree, easy to see why. Tikkun is a patient, patiently crafted film, with expertise by the bucketload and intrigue and invention in just the right doses.
'Dying' very early on in the narrative, Haim-Aaron (Aharon Traitel) is revived by his father (Khalifa Natour). The experience seems to bring about a change of heart in the young man, who we've already seen wavering in his approach to his orthodox Judaism. As one character puts it, Haim-Aaron has some 'nerve' to take 'two souls in a lifetime'. The second of these souls seems more interested in practical answers than the first and Sivan's film becomes something approaching a coming-of-age narrative.
The quietness of Sivan's film (at one point the snoring of a fellow festival-goer was audible) has the effect of allowing you to entirely absorb into the narrative. The expert camerawork from Shai Goldman adds to the effect (watch for the focus on individual pencil strokes early on), which gives you a route into the more successful parts of Tikkun. Haim-Aaron's father's visions, for example, (there seems to be something very wrong with the household plumbing) are beautifully realised, presented in near-silence and a perfect way to examine the ever-darkening thoughts around the family.
Some of the narrative though does feel rather plucked from a stock selection marked 'angsty young man discovers the world'. Haim-Aaron's journey is characterised by a series of increasingly awkward encounters with women and other less-threatening entities which start to feel very uninspired and a little empty of the thought the rest of the film displays. The visit to a brothel is so predictable it's almost tragic and I personally struggled to make the very graphic finale fit entirely with what I'd seen previously.
There is no doubt, however, that Sivan's film has huge skill, beauty and, at times, is successful in what it comes to do and say. Like most abstract festival-friendly pieces though, it loses its way on occasion and whilst I was certainly more absorbed than the man asleep, I can sympathise with those who struggled to find the message.
The 29th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 5th-19th November 2015 at venues around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House, Cottage Road Cinema and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.