Eyes Wide Open is a film I have wanted to write about for a long time, having watched it well over two years ago, I finally got around to getting my own copy and watching it again. As you may have already realised I have a penchant for Israeli queer cinema and have previous written about The Bubble, Yossi & Jagger and it’s sequel Yossi. Here we have a film directed by Haim Tabakman, not Eytan Fox. Moving away from the liberal metropolis of Tel Aviv, this film is set in deeply orthodox Jerusalem and it’s surroundings.
Aaron is recovering from mourning his father’s death and decides to reopen his father’s butchers. The young Ezri comes to Jerusalem to confront his boyfriend who is uncomfortable with his homosexuality and a conflict with his religion. Looking for an assistant Aaron takes on Ezri despite the rumours that are rife in this small community where everyone knows everyone else’s business. As a friendship develops between the two of them, it becomes clear that both men have feelings for each other. Ezri, despite his orthodox stance, is much more at ease with his sexuality than Aaron, who is married with children. Soon the tension becomes too much and they end up sleeping together. As rumours begin to spread (they do not spread on fact, but instead merely on the notion that Ezri has brought a bad reputation with him) trouble increases for the pair and for Aaron’s family. Aaron is warned, and later threatened as a result of his involvement. As everything escalates, Aaron fells alive for the first time in years but realises that he can’t live this double life.
The film is very touching and covers a wide range of issues. Aaron is also involved with the modesty police and his seen to threaten a man who is believed for be unsuitable for a friend’s daughter. Throughout the film the audience sees how patriarchal this society is and how much danger Ezri, and later Aaron, could be in if they are discovered. This film is in stark contrast to the liberal and privileged lives Fox’s characters live in Tel Aviv and as a result highlights the paradoxes so rife in Israeli society today – society, religion and politics all fight for the upper hand.
(I do not own this image)