If there is one film that really touched my heart in a very photographic way, than that film is Everything is Illuminated. The movie is done after a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, the first novel by the American writer, published in 2002. Starring Elijah Wood and Eugene Hütz the film released in 2005. I first saw it during my second year of Uni, when I was part of a photographic circle. The teacher we had said one day that we would watch a movie that he believes reflects the best cinematography as being actually a series of images, a series of pictures in motion. I thought every movie actually is like that, but after I saw the movie I changed my mind totally. The lack of words compensates with the lanscapes and the closeup on the characters. I must admit that for a very long while, I had an image from the movie as my wallpaper and everyone would remark what a beautiful photo that is :)
But here is the plot: Jonathan Foer, (Elijah Wood) a young American Jew, goes on a quest to find the woman, Augustina, sister of Lista (Laryssa Lauret), who saved his grandfather during the Holocaust in a small Ukrainian town called Trachimbrod that was wiped off the map when the Nazis liquidated Eastern European shtetls. His guides are a cranky, anti-semitic grandfather (Boris Leskin); his deranged Border collie named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.; and his over-enthusiastic grandson, Alex (Eugene Hutz), whose fractured command of English, passion for American pop culture, and constant chatter threaten to make the worst of every situation. But what starts out as the tour from hell turns into a meaningful journey, with an unexpected series of revelations that will change all of their lives.
American Chronicle recounted the film as one of the "rare films that encapsulate the emotion of discovery and drama with humor",while Time Out called it "an unbelievably assured debut as a director". Roger Ebert praised the film and gave it 3 and a half stars out of 4, and went to see it a second time 'to better understand the journey it takes'. The film lost money at the box office, as the gross receipts never surpassed even the small budget of the production. Right now, if you check it's rating on IMDB you will see that it is a 7,5 movie. I still believe it is terribly underrated and that all movie fans should watch it at least once!
The movie is a drama and a comedy rolled up in one. It has moments when your heart aches and you wish there could be a way to help the characters, there are moments when you want to laugh out loud so hard that you would scare your neighbours! It begins with placing a huge smile upon the face of the watcher and ends up granting you a heartache. Somehow the novel/writer/fate puts people together, that in any other moments in life would not be joined in. The landscapes shown of Ukraine are magnificent and heart-warming. The colors are alive and it is as if they would like to reach out to the watcher, grab you and drag you along in the main characters journey.
Jonathan is one of the main characters of the movie. I always saw him as "The Collector". He always has a ziplock bag about him and in order to have a track of his memories, his experiences, he collects things related to that experience. He accumulates the knowledge about people, places, stories; he marks them and places them under specific folders. He is neatly organized and he carefully labels everything. Jonathan enters his ultimate journey into finding more about his past - he has come to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather's life. He is the pasive hero of the movie.
On the other side, Alex is all movement, all flow. He is vivid and engaging. Jonathan wears all black-white clothes, carefuly folds everything, all is neat and tidy - Alex is quite the opposite! He invents English words, wears sparkly gold necklaces, Adidas tracksuits and his tee inside out; he smiles and connects to people through his warmth of heart. Probably that is why Alex is the narrator for the movie :) Here is one quote from Alex that made me smile wide when I first heard it: Now I must tell you more of myself. I an unequivocally tall. I do not know any women who are taller than me. The women who *are* taller than me are lesbians, for whom 1969 was a very momentous year. For me, America is a first-rate place. Most of all, I am beloved of American movies, muscular cars, and hip-hop music. I also dig Negroes, most of all, Michael Jackson. He is a first-rate dancer, just like me. Many girls want to be carnal with me because I'm such a premium dancer.
Here are some facts of the movie:
- The shots of Ukraine are actually not done in Ukraine but in Czech Republic :) Which is lovely as you dont see any shops or gas stations and all is wilderness and rustic rural land. In this way they could take long range shots, landscape shots without being bothered by high-tech things jumping in and destroying the cut.
- Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of the lovely novel, appears as the leaf blower at the beginning of the film. I adore the idea of the writers appearing as cameos in the adaptations of their books. Hey, to be fair, Peter Jackson always appears in the movies he directs :) I guess that is a nice bonus!
I have reflected many times upon our rigid search. It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us, on the inside, looking out. Like you say, inside out. Jonathan, in this way, I will always be along the side of your life. And you will always be along the side of mine - Alex, Everything Is Illuminated.
I dedicated this movie to all my friends who love to take pictures, who believe photography is art, who believe that a picture can say a thousand words. I also dedicate this movie to all the Second World War - Jewish history fans out there. If you ever watched La Vita E Bella / Schindler's List / The Pianist / The Diary of Anne Frank, than for sure you will love watching this movie as well. It is heart-warming and makes you think of possible and unprobable connnections that appear in ones life... how life has its weird twists and turns and how one person could infulence anothers life for good or bad. I love this movie and I cherish it in my heart. Hope you will too :)
A Very Big Fan of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated.