‘La Petite Jérusalem’


La Petite Jérusalem opens with a close-up on the inner thighs of its young heroine, Laura (Fanny Valette). Director Karin Albou frequently returns to Laura’s unclothed body—particularly her back—and then follows it up with a shot of the Torah. Laura, whose ever present pout might be annoying if it weren’t so lovely, is in the throes of a spiritual crisis. Raised in a Jewish Orthodox family in Paris, she devotes herself to Kant, renouncing “primal urges” (later she rethinks her policy when she falls for a Muslim man). Her religious sister Mathilde also resists sex, but for different reasons—”God will be mad.” Albou awkwardly annotates their confusion by cutting to classroom scenes in which Laura or her professor speculates on reason and romance. The film strains under the influence of too many philosophy texts, but Albou never dismisses the idea of religion altogether (even as Mom casts spells on the telephone). The sisters’ search for God comes down to matters of logistics: They deal with the sublime questions by finding new friends, appeasing their mother, or being good in bed.

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