|Directed by:||Ari Folman & Uri Sivan||Rating:||TV-14|
|Release Date:||1995||Running Time:||85 mins.|
|Language:||Hebrew (English Subtitles)||Genre:||Drama|
|More Info:||Winner, Best Film, Haifa Intl Film Festival; Official Website||Category:||Feature Film|
Adolescence is always a challenging stage in life, especially for those who stand out from their peers. Taking these challenges in a new and unusual direction, Israel’s premier cult-classic movie Saint Clara is the energetic tale of a telepathic 13-year-old girl. Part science-fiction, part fairytale, the film’s mix of otherworldly magic and gritty realism present a coming-of-age story told in a dystopic near-future.
“Everyone thinks you are a saint,” a teacher admonishes Clara, a student at Golda Meir Junior High, “but I think you are a lost soul looking for love.”
Rather than offering a trite teen romance, the film depicts Clara’s quest for young love with a uniquely subversive flair that separates it from many other films about teen life. The film is rife with provocative symbolism and pop culture references, framing a story where the eternal battle between old and new ideals is fought out in school hallways — and the stakes are higher than any pop quiz.
Set a few years in the future, Saint Clara’s Israel has become an industrial wasteland, where school-age children are on the edge of serious revolt against their oppressively authoritarian teachers. Clara, a recent immigrant from Russia, is an outsider because she’s a foreigner – and because she has a freaky ability to read minds. But when she uses her powers of telepathy to help her classmates ace an Algebra exam, she starts to get noticed. The challenge to school authority is met with panic by teachers, and Clara becomes the subject of a witch-hunt.
However, Clara’s act of subversion also draws more positive attention — from three anarchists in the class. One of them, Tikel, takes a growing interest in Clara, but succumbing to the clutches of young love could forever erase the psychic ability that has become Clara’s most prized possession. She must choose between finding love and keeping her unusual power.
Based on a novel by Czech dissident Pavel Kohout, Saint Clara uses classic teenage rebellion against adult authority as a metaphor for the political battle between democracy and totalitarianism. Teachers are mostly dour, insistent on strict obedience, and obsessed with hazy reminiscences of relics from their own youth, including Marilyn Monroe, Edith Piaf and the Vietnam War. As one of them puts it, “the past is more interesting than the future.”
This older generation stands in symbolic opposition to the forward-looking optimism of the students. Oppressed by their teachers’ authoritarianism and refusal to engage new ways of thinking, they have been driven to carrying out destructive acts on the school’s authoritative icons, including setting light to a statue of Golda Meir. Directors Ari Folman and Uri Sivan do not shy away from putting their youthful cast in demanding situations that blur the line between childhood delinquency and full-blown adult crime.
In exploring the moral disparity between old and young, the film suggests that a person’s age is simply a number that gives parents and teachers control over their children and students. The dialogue between the two generational sides is often politically inclined and peppered with enough obscenities to remind the viewer that this is a film aimed at the same post-teen audience being taken to task.
For all the apocalyptic surrealism in the film, it is at heart a story of first loves. We are reminded again and again that no matter how bleak and frightening the future might seem, confronting it head-on is the only healthy way to grow and change into a happier and more well-adjusted individual.