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Eyes Wide Open (DVD Review)

18 Nov, 2010 By: Billy Gil

First Run
Box Office $0.03 million
$27.95 DVD
Not rated.
In Hebrew with English subtitles.

People reading about Eyes Wide Open, a film about two gay Hasidic Jews struggling to keep their love a secret against an intolerant Jerusalem background, might be tempted to call it a Jewish Brokeback Mountain. Though it doesn’t achieve the heights of Ang Lee’s epic, reducing it to that would dismiss the complexities behind Eyes Wide Open.

The film follows Aaron, a butcher and devout Orthodox Jew who is known as a “tzadikim,” or “righteous man,” a sort of a community leader and example by which others should follow — to the point of enforcement, as the film shows. Aaron’s world of quiet devotion to his practice, his faith and his family is disrupted by the arrival of Erzi, a handsome young man who lands in his shop one day with nowhere to go.

After initially sending Erzi away, Aaron seeks him out and offers him work at his shop, as well as a place to stay. In turn, Erzi awakens something in Aaron — more than his hidden sexuality, he opens his eyes to life outside of the conservative lifestyle he’s known, taking him to swim naked in a pool outside of the city.

Eyes Wide Open is a touching and well-considered gay love story that doesn’t pass judgment on a society or people, but rather its intolerant aspects. Along with 2001 documentary Trembling Before G-d, the film also is a welcome exploration into the dangers and struggles gay Orthodox Jews face, although its themes of alienation and repression connect far beyond that scope.

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