Mountain (Ha'har). 2015. Denmark/Israel. Directed by Yaelle Kayam. In Hebrew; English subtitles. 83 min.
Atop Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, Zvia, a Jewish Orthodox woman, lives surrounded by an ancient cemetery with her four children and husband, a Yeshiva teacher who pays scant attention to her. Yaelle Kayam’s feature debut moves beyond the symbolic landscape of a woman’s isolation to offer a subtle and finely paced entryway into the character’s surprising inner life. On a nighttime walk through the tombstones, Zvia encounters a group of prostitutes and their handlers and gradually becomes an unlikely bystander to their after-hours activities, trading home-cooked meals for companionship—an usual sort, perhaps, but one that upends her existence as a mother and wife. Shani Klein’s arresting lead performance challenges clichés of female subjectivity in the filmmaker’s own society, culminating in Zvia’s dramatic attempt to bring change to her life; throughout, keenly observed frames, by turn luminous and moody, assert the heroine’s volition with intention and finesse.