Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Tribeca 2012: Room 514

The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 18th to April 29th. Jeff Hart and Jeremiah White are there and will be seeing a shitload of movies.

Israeli cheapie Room 514 takes place almost entirely in the interrogation room of its title (there are a few scenes on a bus, and some brief flashes of an apartment). Through aggressively long takes captured with claustrophobic camerawork, an internal investigation into Israeli defense forces using excessive force on innocent Palestinians begins to take shape. It's the old standard of "you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall!" as popularized by Col. Nathan Jessup.

What eventually emerges from Room 514 is better appreciated as a character study than a political thriller. Ann (Asia Naifeld), our lead investigator, is only a few weeks away from the end of her military service, which makes her dogged pursuit of a highly decorated military unit more personal than professional. She's also having an affair with her commanding officer, an affair completely contained in her interrogation room. Anna is beautiful, quick to laugh, and an excellent interrogator. Her motives in both the investigation and the affair are unclear, perhaps even to herself. What emerges is a complex study of an Israeli woman, an idealist searching for an identity, an Israeli struggling to figure out not just her place in the world but that of her country.

Room 514 would make a compelling stage play, but constrained as it is to a subtitled big screen presentation, it can become wearisome. Obviously this criticism won't hold true for those that can understand Hebrew, but with a film this intensely talky, it becomes exhausting to keep up with the massive text blocks that fill the bottom of the screen. At times it feels like reading a play, the performances of the actors shuffled to the background by an audience's need to keep up with what they're saying.

Despite an extraordinarily strong lead performance and subject matter that, while certainly well trod at this point, still feels vital, I can't honestly recommend Room 514. It's solidly crafted, a great example of how to make a bottle movie, but its gimmick causes the film to be literally lost in translation. Criticizing a film on technicalities seems a bit hollow, so viewers interested in debating the slippery slope of brute force used to protect civilians in the age of terror, and with lightning quick reading speed, should probably still check this out.

VERDICT:  Skip it, maybe.

You want the truth?

Be Sociable, Share!

Tagged as: , ,

Comments are closed.