A celebrated Israeli filmmaker named Y arrives in a remote desert village to present one of his films at a local library. Struggling to cope with the recent news of his mother’s terminal illness, he is pushed into a spiral of rage when the host of the screening, a government employee, asks him to sign a form placing restrictions on what he can say at the film’s Q&A. Told over the course of one day, the film depicts Y as he battles against the loss of freedom in his country and the fear of losing his mother. Nadav Lapid (Synonyms, The Kindergarten Teacher) wrote the film soon after the death of his own mother, who worked as an editor on many of his works. It offers a sharp critique of the censorship, hypocrisy, and violence instigated by Israel and repressive governments everywhere. The fact that it was produced, largely funded, and highly acclaimed in its home country highlights the complexities of a national cinema that refuses to be muzzled, born of the divisions of society itself. Winner of the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this boldly shot and conceived work feels as though it has welled up from the depths of its maker’s soul.
For more in-depth thoughts on Ahed’s Knee, please see my colleague Larry Fried’s review from its original theatrical release here.
For more thoughts on Ahed’s Knee, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic:
Ahed’s Knee comes to Blu-Ray in a 1080p presentation that is truly stunning. Although this takes place largely in dry desert expanses filled with rocks, this is a visually rich film with striking shots of the environment throughout where you can see an incredible amount of detail. The transfer reveals the distinct grittiness of the sand and rocks with immense clarity. The film is not bursting with vivid colors in every frame, but the subtlety in the earth tones on display make locations distinct. The interiors are typically an antiseptic white or metallic gray to convey the nondescript nature of the process which the presentation represents perfectly with a pleasing radiance. The white levels are handled beautifully, along with the intensely deep blacks that do not appear to suffer from any compression artifacts. The skin tones look very detailed and natural all around including dust that collects on the surface. This presentation is a very strong representation of the film.
The Blu-Ray disc comes with both a DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio track in the original Hebrew that is surprisingly powerful given the contained nature of the narrative. One of the standout aspects of the film is the use of music in really powerful ways that fill the room. There are numerous odd detours where characters are listening to music or daydreaming with intense ties to music which are intended to be loud and enveloping. The dialogue comes through clearly without ever being overpowered by the sound effects or the music, unless it is intentional. The sound design is just as precisely thought-out as the chaotic on screen visuals with all of the sounds positioned just right in the mix. The environmental effects create a really nice soundscape of nature. This is not an action-heavy film, but activity in the low end is strong thanks to the music. This is an impressive sounding release that brings the movie to life in a really immediate way. There are optional English and French subtitles provided.
- Film Comment Live: A terrific 76-minute conversation with director Nadav Lapid and Iranian film scholar Jamsheed Akrami conducted with Film At Lincoln Center in which the filmmaker delves into his decision to make this film, the state of the Israeli film industry, the realities of working within this system, the truths about his movies that have snuck up on him, speaking about cinema in national terms, how he views himself in relation to other filmmakers, what he wants the audience to take away from his films and more.
- Trailer: The two-minute trailer for Ahed’s Knee is provided here. There are also trailers for The Kindergarten Teacher and Synonyms.
Ahed’s Knee is a passionate rebuke from director Nadav Lapid, a filmmaker who is no stranger to controversy and only intensifies his scorn with this outing. The film is an assault to the senses with its free-wheeling camera work and distinct use of music which puts the audience as on edge as Lapid feels in his homeland. The result will leave audiences very divided, but there is no doubt that the filmmaker has made a singular work that will inspire much conversation. While some of the plot elements feel a bit underdeveloped, the film largely works incredibly well with top notch performances from the two main performers. Kino Lorber has provided a Blu-Ray featuring a strong A/V presentation and a very in-depth supplemental feature. This journey is worth taking if the film sounds even remotely interesting to you. Recommended
Ahed’s Knee is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.