Self Made, the work of Israeli director Shira Geffen, is pretty standard, run-of-the-mill stuff: a role-switching black comedy about an Israeli concept artist who’s exhibiting her surgically excised womb at the upcoming Venice Biennale and a Palestinian furniture store employee who end up trading lives. It features all the clichés of the genre, including sleazy wannabe suicide bombers and violin-playing chefs serenading crabs in a bathtub – you know the sort of thing.
Sarah Adler plays Michal, a celebrated Jerusalem artist whose memory is damaged after her bed collapses one morning. She encounters a series of odd visitors throughout the day – the aforementioned chef, a German TV crew and a photographer – scarcely understanding who they are or why they are there. When she orders a new bed from a flat–pack furniture store and finds a screw missing, Nadine, the employee responsible, is promptly fired.
Nadine, played by Samira Sayastra, is a day-dreamer, drifting along listening to Israeli hip-hop on garish pink headphones and very much living in her own fantasy world.
Eventually the two of them are incarcerated together in a holding pen at a checkpoint. When a superior officer, fearing an embarrassing press incident, tells one of his juniors to release the famous and influential Michal and give her a ride home, the clueless young soldier takes Nadine by mistake.
Both characters spend most of the film in a dreamlike state, floating placidly through the various odd scenes they encounter, punctuated by a few brief moments of anger. The film’s central theme seems to be the disconnection between our own and other people’s perception of ourselves. Nobody even notices that the characters have switched, their families not blinking an eye as they confusedly inhabit their new lives.
The backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is never far from central – Nadine’s neighbour is trying to recruit her to be a suicide bomber, and many scenes take place around a security checkpoint – but it’s never really directly addressed. This is a film that deals with the private and everyday battles we fight with ourselves.
Overall it’s a strange watch, often appearing to be little more than a collection of absurd vignettes; many incidents that occur in the film are swiftly forgotten and left unexplained. It could leave you cold but there’s enough subtle black humour and downright oddness to give it a charm that renders it highly watchable.
Self Made is released nationwide on 9th October 2014.
For further information about the BFI London Film Festival visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Self Made here:
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