Close to Home AKA Karov La Bayit (2005)
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (25th July 2007).
The Film

The news about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and generally the tensions in the Middle East has been one of the most common pieces of news on our TV for a long time. Another suicide bomber has struck on a bus - people are running, shouting and blood fills the streets. Extremists are saying that it was again a justified act and Israel is firing missiles for revenge. There is also part of the very complicated political play in the shadows and the media play for the rest of the world. You´ll see or hear the words like Hamas, Abbas, PLO, Gaza, West Bank, etc on an almost daily basis and eventually you start to wonder that who might be the “bad guys” and who the “good” in this conflict. At least I can´t often tell. By hearing constantly this sad news from the area, you tend to forget that in the cities like Jerusalem, there are also many young, ordinary people, just finding their way to adulthood. They probably have many similar dreams as the young people in the western world; to have fun, meet friends, go shopping and dancing, go studying, make a decent living and in some day - perhaps fall in love and raise a family. Sadly, they´re always shadowed by the tensions and hostilities and in Israel, military service is compulsory for all citizens - also women.

“Close to Home AKA Karov La Bayit” focuses on two different young women and their struggle between the military service and the normal life in the “divided city”; Mirit (Neama Shendar) is shy, melancholic and well mannered - coming from a loving family. Smadar (Smadar Sayar) is unmotivated, restless and often angry - she´s living mainly alone. These two are assigned to work together in the streets of Jerusalem, where they have to patrol and check the ID-cards for all the “Arabs” (meaning Palestinians). Both are reluctant to do this daily work, but for different reasons; Mirit is willing to fulfil her duty, but is not very firm or confident at confronting people in the streets. Smadar just doesn´t have the motivation or desire; she mainly finds the passion only when people don´t co-operate with her. And then it comes from anger. At first they´re quite distanced from each other, but slowly they´ll find some common thoughts and at least one common goal: they both need a friend. Their head officer Liat (Dubik) (Sharon Raginiano) is an authority, who sees the frustration of the girls that are under her command and probably also understands them to some degree. Her call is still for Israel. The burden lies also on her shoulders, since the nation is facing an invisible enemy - a bomb can explode at any given time, without warning. Patrolling in the streets is often futile - also Dubik knows that, but she has the orders from her superiors like anyone else in the military. Somewhere in the city, a bomb explodes again and the city is in higher alert.

“Close to Home” by writer-directors Vardit Bilu and Dalia Hager is not a very political, nor even heavy drama. The story is very open and it mainly follows the two main characters going through their military service. It´s about their yearning for love and friendship. It tells something about the major conflict in the area, but focuses more to the “inner conflicts” that the characters go through as young, modern women. The contrast between these ordinary women searching for the possible suicide bombers, when the others of their age in many countries are sitting in a café, or at the movies, is quite striking. Despite the subject, the tone is often quite warm and even humourous. There are scenes (mainly involving Mirit and her “prince charming”) that feel even silly. The film could´ve taken the subject matter a notch or two deeper and the script probably would´ve benefited for tighter structure. Now some of the scenes feel a bit too superficial. The actors are still very natural and I enjoyed them a lot. Sometimes it feels that they´re not really “acting”, but merely “are there”. This works for the style of the film. It´s also fresh to see actresses that don´t look like they´ve been taken straight from the Hollywood “portfolio”. Visually the film is very interesting, since although it doesn´t show that much of Jerusalem, you´ll always have the feel for the city and its atmosphere. “Close to Home” is a small story, reminding us how the violence can dominate in some areas of the world, but the people will essentially look for similar things everywhere. People want to love and to be loved.

Video

The film is presented in Anamorphic 1.78:1 and it looks pretty good. The blacks are very deep and the transfer has clarity. The film is shot in HD, which makes the look a bit more “crisper” than it probably would´ve been on film. Some edge enhancement is there - along with some noise, but overall this is a nice looking transfer. The film runs 98:31 minutes (NTSC) and has 18 chapters. The “single layer” disc is coded “R1”. The film is using dual Hebrew/English credits.

Audio

Original Hebrew Dolby Digital-track is the only audio choice and I came to the conclusion that it´s a more rare 4.0 (discrete audio signals for the center/left/right channels, plus a mono audio signal for the surround channels). Back cover says “Stereo Surround”, but my receiver had all the 5.1-lights lit, which pretty much excludes that option. Computer based player and my older DVD-player would indicate that it´s actually encoded as 4.0. English HoH, English and Spanish subtitles are included. The track is very solid and natural sounding, bringing the ambient noise of the city and the selected scenes (e.g. rain) alive also in the rear channels. The audio is never that aggressive, but that´s not the nature of the movie anyway. Good work.

Extras

There are no proper extras, only 2 bonus trailers (running 4:46 min) for “After the Wedding AKA Efter brylluppet (2006)” and “An Unreasonable Man (2006)”. These run before the “Main menu”, but can be skipped.

Overall

“Close to Home” is a fresh Israeli film, taking its subject matter further from the conflict in the area and focusing on the normal people - the ones that are merely fighting against the various emotions of growing into adulthood. The DVD-presentation is fair enough, although is virtually bare bones.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Genius Products.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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