I had written this on the Awards Watch forums a few days before Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms” was about to screen at the Berlin Film Festival, where it ended up winning the Golden Bear this past weekend.
I was shown a rough cut of the Lapid a few months ago. SPECTACULAR. If it's not the best film of Berlin then a masterpiece will take its spot. It was supposed to be at Cannes but Nadav had SERIOUS family issues to deal with and didn't go. This should be the film that will make him a major world director. POLICEMAN and THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER should have done that, alas.
And so, Lapid’s astonishing, messy, scary, hilarious and, yes, landmark “Synonyms” is a much-needed treatise on identity in the 21st century. It makes sense that it was co-produced by “Toni Erdmann” director Maren Ade, since it shares that film’s impeccably balanced mix of comedy and drama.
The film is based on Lapid’s own experience as a young Israeli man who fled to Paris because he believed that he was born in the Middle East by mistake.
It is quite clear that this marks a step a above his previous two features, which were both knockouts by the way, but Synonyms is a major step forward. I can’t wait to see the final cut, but the rough cut that I did see was bold and immensely satisfying to my eyes and ears.
The lead of the film Tom Mercier plays Yoav, a millennial that refuses to speak another word of Hebrew once his feet plant themselves on French ground. However, it’s much harder carrying the baggage that comes with being an Israeli, especially when the world we live in today is all about identifying a person with their race or country.
The film currently has no distributor but you can bet it will be picked up and make waves later this year.