This gently illuminating documentary from filmmakers Masha and Yonathan Zur casts its gaze upon the life of critically acclaimed Israeli writer and political commentator Amos Oz. Drawing deeply from his memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, the film paints a thoughtfully evocative portrait of the eminent author and the personal, philosophical and political dreams that traverse, and haunt, his work.
Oz is renowned for his fiercely unequivocal political views; he is a stalwart proponent of a two-state solution for the Israel–Palestine issue, and as such his politics have sparked controversy in his homeland. Oz’s outspoken approach has seen him marginalised on both sides of the ideological chasm, though his articulate candour, humour and frank acknowledgement of the often-nightmarish reality of everyday life for many in the Middle East are an invaluable contribution to the issue. Oz likens the two-state solution to a patient contemplating the amputation of a limb: it entails a loss, but life is preserved in the process.
Throughout his career Oz’s fiction has been noted for its compassion, humanism and insight into human nature, and his political and philosophical endeavours share this focus. In this film Masha and Yonathan Zur follow Oz as he travels from Israel to New York and Europe, delving into the public and personal facets of his life and unearthing the roots of his passions and preoccupations. Utilising voice-over excerpts from A Tale of Love and Darkness, filmed lectures, interviews, and conversations between Oz and various writers, politicians and intellectuals, the film offers a rare insight into the evolutionary trajectory of his thought. Oz speaks openly and elegantly about his childhood in Jerusalem in the 1940s, and of his parents – idealistic Zionist immigrants from Poland – and especially his mother Fania, who committed suicide when Oz was twelve years old. These formative experiences provide a thematic base which gradually unfurls to incorporate Oz’s views on writing, identity, anti-Semitism, colonialism, politics, and his hopes for the future of Israel.
Amos Oz: The Nature of Dreams is unobtrusively filmed, and the viewer feels a genuine sense of intimacy with the dynamic Oz. Archival footage from pre-war Europe and British-administered Jerusalem of the 1930s and 40s is delicately combined with family photographs to vividly conjure two lost worlds: the thriving social and intellectual Jewish life of early 20th Century Poland, and the dream-filled first days of the State of Israel.
According to Oz, however, the taste of disappointment is in the nature of dreams. If the State of Israel is a web spun from the realisation of many disparate, competing dreams, then disillusionment and thwarted hopes are destined to be the nation’s lot – as reality can never be perfect. Oz tackles this bind with fervent pragmatism and unswerving humanism. This documentary is a moving portrait of a vibrant man whose constant refusal to be blinded by a politics of religion and place is inspirational stuff indeed.