La Petite Jérusalem (2005) 96min
October 2nd, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 2,910 Views
Young and beautiful Laura is a philosophy student and lives with her sister’s family and her mother in Jewish suburb of Paris a.k.a. La Petite Jérusalem, mostly populated by people from North Africa. Laura’s family is from Tunisia. The family is poor, and to make the ends meet she has to work the night shift as a made in school. There she falls in love with her Muslim co-worker from Algiers. At the same time her sister finds out that her husband has an affair, and goes to her spiritual mentor to help her cope and understand the duties of a married woman.
This is a beautiful and gentle drama that looks at several issues that are as old as the World itself. The first one is “Romeo and Juliet” story of love across borders of the clans, or religious borders in this case. The second is even older: can people be rational or logical about things like love and god. The third issue is raised by Laura’s professor in her philosophy class: how can people achieve freedom: by renouncing the law or by embracing the law. In Laura’s case it turns out that she becomes a victim because she’s bound by her religion, even though she’s open-minded and educated, and seems that her philosophy in many way transcends her religious beliefs, but then she binds her self with the rules of logic and rationalism. The forth issue is about Mathilde, Laura’s sister. When Mathilde finds out that her husband, who was such a devout believer, is having an affair with another woman, she gets help from her spiritual advisor and by taking ritual baths. She’s all about obeying the law and being modest as Torah teaches, but as always with religion, it is quite flexible and Mathilde’s mentor shows her how laws can be bent by re-interpreting them. Fifth issue is about over-controlling parents: when you keep your children on a very short leash they’ll run away with the first person who pays attention to them. I’ve seen too many times how girls from strict families fall in love like a moss flies around the fire or get married just to get away from the family. Laura’s and Mathilde’s mother seems to be over-controlling too, and there pressure on Laura is tremendous. But there’s a great scene where we get to know Laura’s mother better during an intimate conversation between her Mathilde and then she doesn’t seem to be so despotic anymore.
Great acting, especially on the part of Elsa Zylberstein (Mathilde) and beautiful Fanny Valette (Laura). Great director too, considering this is a debut for Karin Albou. I loved the photography: the close-ups, the light, the choice of focus and angles. Nude and love-making scenes were shot with great dignity. All action seemed true and believable. The music score was nice but too moody. I appreciated the humanism of this picture.
I noticed that in this suburb Jews were beaten up or their stuff was set on fire almost every day.
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