Year Released: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 15 minutes
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“Last Things (Trilogy)” is a three part poetic short from Israel, by Sharon Horodi and Cheb M. Kammerer. It begins with compelling footage of a bee colony, and the amazing sounds of the hive, which are rapidly inter-cut with snippets from Israeli television of homeless people eating from garbage cans, in grainy black and white, the graininess resembling the buzzing of the bees.
A poetic voice over narration describes the bees reacting to the mysterious Colony Collapse Syndrome which is killing them off (apparently now a worldwide phenomenon), but the text can easily be heard as a metaphor about a state becoming increasingly security-obsessed as it weakens and dies. (The sentry guard bees act more and more irrationally as the crisis worsens.) The horrors of homelessness may look even more ghastly and unacceptable to Israelis than they do to Americans, since Israelis once had pretensions towards egalitarian socialism, and so they haven’t passively accepted this disgrace the way that Americans seem to.
In the middle section of the trilogy, we see footage of a construction project in a prosperous Israeli suburb. A venerable and ancient tree is carefully protected and respected by the workers. In Jewish law, killing a tree is considered a great crime, worse in some respects than murder, as would be expected in a desert culture. These scenes are inter-cut with images of an impoverished farmer watching helplessly as bulldozers uproot and destroy trees, as the Israeli Army did in Palestine, simply to prevent Palestinians from having any way of supporting themselves. A voiceover recites a Biblical legend which underscores how respect for trees was traditionally an integral part of the Jewish culture.
In the final section, shots of enormous glass high-rises in an Israeli city are contrasted with ruins, those caused by poverty and those by bombing. There is a montage of voices in many different languages, all reading a text, taken from a poster seen on the streets, proclaiming the Messianic philosophy of the “End of Days” which religious fundamentalists of all stripes seem to project onto Israel. We see the faces of ordinary Israelis of many ethnicities, in slow motion, and the faces indeed look extremely tense and closed off, as you would expect in a terrorized country where no one is safe. A young hitchhiker holds up a sign saying “Messiah” but can’t get a ride. In a beautiful image, connecting the end of the film with its beginning, we see this young man sleeping on a piece of bedding on a street, in front of a ruined, destroyed area.
“Last Things (Trilogy)” is an intense, beautifully structured, highly political film, in which the cry of horror at the purveyors of war and how they have destroyed two cultures and two peoples is uttered in a condensed, poetic language of images and words. The film gains tremendous power through the evocative and interlocking effect of resonant images. Beautifully shot and edited, “Last Things (Trilogy)” proves that passionate politics can be conveyed through poetic means, and, far from being dulled down or made too pretty, rendered in a powerful, unforgettable way, which would be impossible in the ordinary language of documentary films.
Posted on October 6, 2009 in Reviews by David Finkelstein
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