Monday, June 13, 2016

A Movie You Might Have Missed #55: Ushpizin

You see a lemon. They see a miracle.

#55. Ushpizin

In Jerusalem's orthodox neighborhoods, it's Succoth, seven days celebrating life's essentials in a sukkah, a temporary shack of both deprivation and hospitality. A devout couple, Moshe and Mali, are broke and praying for a miracle. They can't afford to build a sukkah, they can't afford food for a feast, and they have no guests. Their prayers are answered. But those answers bring their own tests of faith, beginning with the Ushpizin, the guests that unexpectedly show up on their doorstep.

I really can't believe I haven't mentioned this movie here before. It became an instant favorite as soon as we watched it.

Above all, the story is that of Moshe and Mali as we watch their relationship tested. Their chemistry and love is undeniable and forms the backbone of the story. Each wants the best for their marriage and each other and yet, as is always the case, life and especially the upcoming holiday throws unexpected challenges their way.

This is a tale of love and living your faith to the fullest which is, of course, why it resonates with me. The fact that this is managed in a light, humorous piece about such a foreign culture just goes to show the artistry that went into this film.

What's helpful to know before you watch:
  • Succoth is a 7-day Jewish festival when meals are eaten in a sukkah, a temporary booth of both deprivation and hospitality. Men also sleep there. It is considered a blessing to have guests at that time.
  • Moshe's orthodox Braslov Hasidism particularly emphasizes personal and emotional connection to God.
  • The four species are four plants mentioned in Torah in connection with succoth, one of which is the etrog (citron fruit).
  • Low level criminals in Israel can get out for a while on leave, evidently being on the honor system for showing back up again.
If you want more background information after watching, read Joseph Suzanka's review which I how I first heard of it. He has some wonderful insights and the background of the movie is almost as good as the movie itself.

Scott and I also discussed it at A Good Story is Hard to Find, where Leah's comments on the blog gives some excellent clarification on questions of the faith and attitudes in the film.

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