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BROKEN WINGS

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Orly Zilbershatz-Banai, Maya Maron, Nitai Gaviratz, Daniel Magon, Eliana Magon, Vladimir Friedman
Director: Nir Bergman
Audio: Hebrew Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English
Video: Color, 1.78:1 widescreen
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Trailers
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: July 20, 2004

"Still have so much to say to you,

Every day there's more to tell,

Dreaming, I'm little now,

Fading away every passing day..."

Film ****

There is an inherent universality about family relationships which transcends all language or cultural boundaries.  Tensions between parents and their adolescent children, minor family squabbles, struggles over personal freedom and dutiful responsibilities - these represent merely a small portion of the sundry components of any normal, on-going family experience, large or small.

Nir Bergman's debut film Knafayim Shvurot (Broken Wings, 2002) follows the events of a summer's end for one such typical family.  Unfolding over the course of several days, Broken Wings examines how a family, rendered by internal conflicts and a sudden crisis, struggles to maintain its bonds of unity.  The middle-aged matriarch of the family, Dafna Ulman (Orly Zilbershatz-Banai), is a hospital midwife increasingly overwhelmed by the unrelenting demands of her career and her own efforts to raise four children on her own.  There is no father, and while the lack of a paternal influence does not initially appear to be detrimental, his absence will become increasingly significant and relevant as the story progresses.

Of the children, Maya (Maya Maron) is the oldest, an aspiring young singer who feels suffocated by her family's needs.  With her mother too exhausted at times to provide adequate care for her children, Maya must bear some of the burden of raising her two youngest siblings, an inquisitive brother Ido and a young sister Bahr.  Maya has a good heart and does attempt to be a dutiful daughter, though she cannot help but feel occasionally resentful and frustrated by her new responsibilities.  As with any teen, Maya longs for personal freedom of a sort; she is simply too young and inexperienced to provide a stable emotional core for the family.

Her slightly younger brother Yair (Nitai Gaviratz) is of little help.  He likewise is undergoing an identity and spiritual crisis.  Having dropped out of school much to his mother's dismay, Yair has begun to question the rationale behind life, rebelling at will and trying to make some sense of his own existence.  Yair is an intelligent child, but he would rather hide behind a mask and a meager job handing out flyers than continue his education in preparations for a societal existence in which he holds no faith.  There is an aura of unresolved anger about Yair, perhaps over the absence of a true father figure, perhaps out of pessimism for the future.

As for the two youngest children, both are essentially left to fend for themselves for hours on end.  Unattended, Ido becomes morbidly absorbed with the idea of filming himself as he repetitively leaps into a deep swimming pool.  The sister Bahr (Eliana Magon) has insecurities which leave her frightened and unwilling to make her own decisions.  As the youngest child, Bahr needs the most nurturing love of all the children.

In essence, the four siblings have responded to the hardships in their lives by either withdrawing into their introspective thoughts or shutting themselves off from the outside world.  The overall effect is that the unity of the Ulman family is slowly disintegrating.   Children and mother may speak with one another, but there is little sense of real communication, of anyone truly listening or responding to the internal turmoil and emotions beneath the words.

Broken Wings opens on the first day of kindergarten for Bahr.  Although this is a relatively insignificant event, such matters are always magnified in importance within a family setting, and so Dafna feels compelled to be present for Bahr on her first day.  While the events of this morning are somewhat hectic, the remainder of the day proves relatively calm.  Each member of the Ulman family goes about his or her daily travails, which the film reveals in a slice-of-life manner.  We can sense in these activities a hope or desire to move onward with life, regardless of any current family dilemmas - Dafna attempts to register for a dating service, her son Yair attends a meeting with an academic counselor about possibly returning to school, Maya contemplates a balance between her musical aspirations and her responsibilities to her siblings and mother.

However, a new crisis suddenly develops for which Maya feels partly to blame, and it threatens to tear the family irremediably apart.  From this point onwards, Broken Wings traces a path through the five individual family members' reactions to the crisis, their emotional or spiritual epiphanies, and the eventual reconciliation.  Such story developments may sound somewhat melodramatic, but there is a heartfelt note of sincerity and realism to the proceedings.

Broken Wings offers a metaphorical window into the fragility and preciousness of life.  If every life is a miracle, then each is to be embraced, never wasted.  The fleetingness of our mortality compels us to persevere through the hardships which face us.  For the departed, let our memories cherish their past triumphs and sorrows; for the living, let us believe in the fraternity of humanity, that we are all, in the end, brothers and sisters of a larger communal family.  If we cannot accept our individual faults or if we cannot learn to forgive or to love in spite of those flaws or differences, then how can we place ourselves above the common animals of this earth?  In good conscience, we must endeavor to prove ourselves worthy of the gift of life, to overcome our tribulations through a united spirit, to mend our broken wings.

Video ***

Broken Wings looks fairly decent and is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer.  The bit rate averages 6-7 Mbps.  Skin tones are realistic, and the color palette generally emulates natural hues.  The picture is only mildly grainy in an otherwise acceptable transfer.

Audio ***

Broken Wings is mostly a dialogue-driven film.  The audio quality is quite adequate for the film.  My only regret is that Maya's poignant and touching song, dedicated to her father, is never heard completely with full instrumentation.

Features  *

Broken Wings earned numerous international accolades, including various Best Film and Best Actress awards, and deservedly so.  As such, the lack of extras on this disc, aside from a few trailers, is disappointing.

The seven trailers are for Broken Wings, Monsieur Ibrahim (with Omar Sharif), Ki-duk Kim's spiritual Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, the bizarrely surreal animated film The Triplets of Belleville, the French farce Bon Voyage, the whimsical German comedy Good Bye, Lenin!, and Carandiru.

Summary:

A somewhat melancholy drama, Broken Wings is a powerful and deeply touching slice-of-life film about the importance of family solidarity in face of bereavement.  I would highly recommend this excellent film to all audiences.

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