Tuesday, September 5, 2006

"EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED"

Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, Jana Hrabetova

"Leave normal behind"


Sammy Davis Jr Jr



A quirky yet delightful film about a young man's quest to find a woman in his grandfather's past by journeying all the way to Ukraine. There he joins this heritage tour being run by a Ukrainian family. Their main selling point is a trip to the different villages where Jewish tourists go in order to trace their ancestors. It is basically a road trip movie where 3 completely diverse characters along with a dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. Embark on a journey of self discovery.

This movie is an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel and directed by the actor Liev Schreiber ("The Manchurian Candidate", "The Sum of all Fears") who is also of Ukrainian descent. I haven't read the book but I've heard of it and was really interested in watching the film. Thankfully I found a VCD of it selling for only P100 so now it is part of my private collection.

The film has really funny yet minimal dialogue courtesy of Alex Perchov, the Ukrainian guide who speaks in this thick broken English accent. He is an interesting character who is quite endearing in his own way. His grandfather is the driver throughout the road trip but he doesn't speak English so Alex has to translate for Jonathan. It is in the bad translation where most of the comic lines come forth. Jonathan is the young man who is a collector of family memories. The walls of his room are filled with various mementos like samples of hair, letters, tickets even dentures of his numerous relatives.

The pace of the film is rather slow yet picks up towards the end when everything is revealed. Several upbeat Russian/Ukrainian folk songs together with some Euro Techno Rock music permeates throughout the entire movie. Cinematography is quite panoramic. Shots of lush green villages for miles and miles amidst a single path of road are breathtakingly gorgeous. Do watch out for that scenic shot of rows of sunflower surrounding a single detach house - it was so vividly captured on film. It is a very beautiful camera angle.

Eugene Hutz who looks like a younger version of John Turturro is the front singer of a gypsy band but was compelled by the director to star as Alex Perchov. He did an excellent job and was quite convincing for a first time actor. Elijah Wood stars as Jonathan S. Foer (the author's alter ego) and his calm indifferent demeanor was perfect for the role. Although I do draw quite a comparison with his sinister role as Kevin in "Sin City". If you've seen that graphic comic book movie you will know who I am talking about. Kevin totally freaked me out. I had nightmares for several nights. But thankfully in "Everything is illuminated" Elijah Wood is not creepy at all just an eccentric person.

The beauty of this film lies in its simplistic approach in telling a tale about such tragic times (the persecution of Jews in Russia during the second World War). Liev Schreiber did a good job because he also wrote the screenplay for this film.
I believe that once in a while, it is important for people to trace their ancestry for it is in discovering certain 'secrets' that we are fully illuminated with what life is all about.

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