Time of Favor


      It's perhaps safe to say that since September 11, 2001, Americans are more attuned to the
potential threats of terrorism. But there are other parts of the world where people have long lived
in daily communion with the possibility of violence. Place like Israel, for example. This point is
made clearly in the somewhat schematic but engrossing politically-themed thriller
TIME OF FAVOR,
which was the Israeli selection for the 2000 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film.

      What perhaps proves most intriguing about
TIME OF FAVOR is that the terrorist portrayed
are not the usual suspects. Instead of Palestinians or Syrians or Egyptians, those plotting a
bombing turn out to be ultra-Orthodox Jews who have taken the teachings of their rabbi to the
extreme.

      The film opens with three friends moving through ancient catacombs in Jerusalem to an
underground bath. Two of three will play pivotal roles in the bomb threat, but for more personal
reasons. The sickly, scholarly Pinchus, known as Pini (played by comic Idan Alterman) has been
handpicked by the charismatic Rabbi Meltzer (filmmaker Assi Dayan) to marry the rabbi's
daughter Michal (Tinkerbell). There a big problem, though. Michal hates living in the West Bank
settlement and longs to relocate to the city. She also rejects Pini because she is attracted
to Menachem (the impossibly handsome Aki Avni), a soldier in an elite army unit comprised
of students drawn from the Rabbi's yeshiva. This cadre of fighters has drawn the attention of
government agents who are fearful of the radical fundamentalism they perceive in the rabbi's
teachings. (For example, he preaches about one day being able to freely pray at the Dome of
the Rock, which is a site that is holy to both Islam and Judaism.) Things become more
complicated when Pini formulates a plan to  destroy the Islamic shrine and frame Menachem
in the bargain.

      Co-written and directed by Joseph Cedar,
TIME OF FAVOR married the dangerous
ideals of politics and religion in a manner that is not exploitative. While the plotting is a bit
ragged and some of the internecine struggles of the region may not be as readily understood
by American audiences, the film does manage to suggest the gray areas between the secular
and the religious and it raises the intriguing prospects of how the words of a religious leader
can be bent and shaped by fanatics. Just as in real life, the film suggests that there are
no easy answers.



                                                            Rating:                 B
                                                            MPAA rating:      NONE
                                                            Running time:      102 mins.
© 2006 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.