OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Synonyms

(Synonymes)

2019 Berlinale Golden Bear Winner – Best Film

Nadav Lapid’s astonishing, maddening, brilliant, hilarious, and altogether unmissable new film Synonyms opens with a twenty-something Israeli traveller named Yoav (extraordinary first-timer Tom Mercier) entering a gorgeous, but empty Parisian apartment. Emerging from a bath, he finds all his possesions gone. After racing naked through the building, he sinks back into the tub. When he is woken the next morning by Émile and Caroline – the beautiful bourgeois couple who live downstairs – Yoav is reborn.

Poster for the identity defacement drama SynonymsSo begins a work of tormented genius about trying to replace one identity with another, continuing the director’s career-long fascination with the impossible knot that ties a person to their country. 

Synonyms builds with the transfixing power of a primal scream. The movie follows Yoav as he tries to shed his Israeliness. He rents a tiny apartment, and lives on less than two Euros a day. He gets a job at the Israeli embassy and only speaks his native tongue through gritted teeth. He tells Caroline and Emile incredible stories about his terrorist grandfather, his childhood obsession with the Trojan warrior Hector, and his time in the Israeli Defence Force. But Yoav discovers that his national identity stalks him like a shadow. The harder he tries to shed his skin, the closer it sticks to his bones.

Synonyms translates Yoav’s dilemma into an unshakable portrait of a man who’s grown tired of carrying the baggage that comes with being an Israeli, and who’s driven to the brink of madness by a world that forcibly identifies people by the place they were born. Yoav is the living personification of impotent rage, and Mercier’s hypnotic performance makes the character seem as though he’s got one foot stuck on a landmine and the other flailing about in search of solid ground.

With something taking you by surprise in almost every scene, the film grows even more moving in its final stretches, Synonyms is like a powerful howl that’s hard to hear clearly, and harder still to get out of your head.

– David Ehrlich, Indiewire


Dans Synonymes, récompensée par l’Ours d’or à la Berlinale 2019, un jeune israelien et ancien soldat, Yoav (Tom Mercier), débarque à Paris et squatte un appartement vide avant de se faire voler ses affaires. Nu comme un vers, il est secouru par un couple de jeunes bourgeois (Quentin Dolmaire et Louise Chevillotte) qui entament avec lui un curieux rapport d’amitié et de séduction.

Yoav s’est mis en tête de mettre une croix sur son passé israélien : refusant de parler hébreu y compris avec ses compatriotes, explorant les subtilités de la langue française avec un dictionnaire de synonymes, il tente de s’approprier une ville dont il refuse les aspects touristiques. L’une des forces du métrage est de montrer la souffrance de Yoav lorsqu’il réalise que le Paris idéalisé ne correspond pas au fantasme intériorisé, et qu’il ne parvient à s’identifier à aucune terre d’origine ou d’accueil…

Synonymes est la révélation d’un grand acteur : Tom Mercier dégage un magnétisme et une présence à la fois brutale et vulnérable, expressive et réservée.

– Gérard Crespo, À Voir, À Lire

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