Again, as I've stated at least once, I really don't know anything about Israeli cinema or ultra Orthodox Jewish culture except indirectly through Israel-Palestinian news. This movie could have been set in any backward, narrow-minded village or small town anywhere in the world. There is a fairytale like quality to the movie -- partly due to really excellent cinematography. Think of The Crucible except the town has no Winona Ryder stirring things up, but rather, the community is already highly, highly enforcing its very narrow range of normative standards on their own people.
While movie critics see the struggle between desire and religious obligation, I see the struggle in the movie in much more broad terms. It is the struggle between the individual and the community. It is the struggle between containment and bringing new meaning into life. Having no background in Judaism, I did a little a research on Hasidic Judaism. It turns out that this form of Judaism was a reaction to "overly legalistic Judaism." Hasidic teachings focused on the sincerity and concealment of holiness in the common tao and their shared equality with the scholarly elite with a "emphasis on the Divine presence in everything gave new value to prayer, deeds of kindness, optimism, encouragement and fervour.
Aaron's struggle with the young Ezri (above, photo not from the film) provides the template for the redemption of a declining conscious organization of life. The film ends indeterminately. I wish not to present too fully my own opinion on this as it might spoil the ending. But, let me just say, that Hosea, a Hebrew prophet, was commanded by God to marry a prostitute, Gomer, and sire children by her and remain with her as she sleeps with other men. But what happens if Hosea were not to redeem Gomer but to stand, dumb and silent, like the young Perceval in the Grail Castle, before the Fisher King? Would Gomer ever be redeemed as the Fisher King was? Or, like the late Roman culture, simply be cast aside in favor of its opposite, Christianity?
This film requires attention and patience, but is worth watching.
Second Wind - In the dream, I asked him, "*Pa, how do I become strong like you?"* Upon waking up, I realized it was one of the most honest things I've said in the past ...