Anthem / Himnon— a film by Elad Keidan

Amnon woke up, not to a bright new morning but wanting to end his life. The smell of someone’s coffee came through his window and awoke excitement in him, so he began to brew his own.

Nearing dusk, in a residential part of Jerusalem, the camera movement mirrors emptiness. Single cars drive up and down the hill, sometimes followed by the camera, sometimes not. A man on his bicycle struggles upwards. Somewhat bored or lacking energy, Amnon (Ilan Hazan) walks from a side street on to the main road. Noticing a shoe on the floor, he stops and gives it to a boy sitting on a wall along the sidewalk. Continuing down the hill, he enters a small convenience store and buys a carton of milk, getting little attention from the attendant who is on the telephone. Back up the hill, once more he picks up the shoe and gives it to the boy.

As he reaches his house and is about to open the door, he hears the cry of a kitten, and quickly decides to pour some of the milk he just bought into a small bowl. Noticing that the kitten hardly touches the milk, he decides to take a whiff, and with a clear expression of annoyance, looks at the road he must walk once more to return the spoiled milk.

Finding the shoe on the street, again, he puts it on the boy’s foot himself. As he reaches the store, the attendant is still on the telephone.

“The milk is sour. I just want to exchange it.”

The attendant nods.

“They have all expired. Do you have any fresh ones?”

The attendant gives him the telephone and informs him:

“Tristan and Isolde. If someone comes to the phone, just say Tristan and Isolde, from Wagner”

…and he goes looking for fresh milk.

A voice appears on the telephone and our bored one answers:

“Tristan and Isolde”

“…and who is the conductor?”

“mmm…. Zubin Mehta?”

“Oh! I am sorry. That was Sergiu Celibidache”

“That boy did not leave me any milk here. I’ve got no more”

“Is the store down there open?”

“Might be – I don’t know” answers the attendant.

Just as he exits the store, a man approaches him and wishes to know if the flower stand up the road is still open.

“Might be – I don’t know!” says the milk-less one.

“And do you know if the store down the road is still open?”

“It might be – I don’t know. Actually, too bad that we are strangers. Otherwise we could have called each other, you would have bought my flowers and I your milk.”

They go their ways.

“Shalom”

“Happy Sabbath!”

The store is open and he takes a milk container, pays ILS 4,60 and goes once more up the hill. He spots an orange rolling passed him and looks at it until it disappears. About to resume his walk back, another orange rolls towards him. This time he picks it up and notices a woman trying to collect her groceries back into a baby carriage. Her two daughters await her further up the road. After he gives her the orange she asks – “Where is the other one?”

They proceed together in conversation, while the girls play energetically around them, although, to say that they converse is actually overblown, for she conducts a senseless monologue and he hardly gets a single word in. Suddenly, without interrupting herself, she collects the shoe from the sidewalk without looking, puts it on the boys foot, and continues her talk.

Film still: Amnon takes the boy’s shoe with him.

Alone again, Amnon approaches the flower shop, just to realize that he must have forgotten his wallet at the store. After picking up the boy’s shoe — this time taking it with him — he finds the store has already closed, and goes up the steps to the house above, hoping to find the owner.

“I bought some milk downstairs and forgot my wallet there. Do you know where the owner lives?”

“Come inside” is the response of a young woman (Maya Gasner). “I cannot come out, but, please, take a seat. My husband should be back soon and he will get the wallet for you. On the table there is some freshly made tea. Take a seat and help yourself.”

He puts a sugar cube in his mouth before taking a sip of the black tea; a second sugar cube and another sip. Patiently he adds some of his milk. After some minutes he begins to wonder about the light and the sounds coming from the restroom.

“Is there something wrong?”

“I cannot come out” answers the young woman.

“Can I do anything for you? Are you alright?  …he responds, a bit concerned.

“I just found out that I am pregnant and in this state I cannot allow that you are the first one to see me.”

He suggests that she comes out, and they converse until her husband returns, promising not to look at her until he arrives. And he begins…

“My day did not start well today. I was looking for the most dangerous pills but found only laxatives. Through the window I smelled some coffee. Excited, I had the desire to have some, got up to prepare one, got water, some sugar and coffee but once it was ready, I went to get some milk, and had none.”

At that point he interrupted himself: “Not that I desire this, but if for whichever reason your husband were not ever to return, I would love to marry you and raise the child with you.”

She stood up and asked him to help her lighting the candles. Just as they were about to start their prayer, her husband came in. The men introduced themselves, prayed together, and he left their home with his wallet.

🜰

There are so many verses in this short work — in words, and in pictures. It is a cinematic poem, seducing the viewer into a realm of possibilities: an exercise in loneliness, or in friendship, or in intimacy, when he sees no reaction to his passionate confession but we see her expression of wonder in a possible joy.

Elad Keidan slows time down by his minimalistic display of layers behind the efforts of a man in finding milk for his coffee.

  • Film title: Anthem (Himnon, original title)
  • Director: Elad Keidan
  • Genre: short, drama
  • Time: 36 minutes
  • Main actors: Amnon – Ilan Hazan; pregnant woman – Maya Gasner
  • Year: 2008
  • Country: Israel
  • Honors: 1st Prize Cannes/short film

This is a revised version of the review I published for Coffee Dramatist in 2012.

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