Tikkun opens in an empty room filmed in black-and-white. There is dead air, then metal tools clang on white tile. Hooves clack as cows walk to slaughter; a blade sings in the air.
The butcher is a bearded man, a Hasidic Jew. He and the other characters, living in Israel, speak Hebrew (and occasionally Yiddish), but what resonates is silence — the dialogue is hard to hear. What do we listen for when we can’t understand words? Our bodies, of course — and what if we fear them?
Avishai Sivan asks those questions in his strange, excruciating, meticulous new film. Haim-Aaron (Aharon Traitel), a yeshiva student, carries the film, which he begins with a rigorous fast, hitting his head in the shower. He lives — or does he? Disengaged from his studies, furious, wrestling with god, arguing with his father (a powerful Khalifa Natour), the slim, trembling man doesn’t fit anywhere, yet the emotion and perceptive power emanating from him makes him the focal point of any scene. In one of the few conversations, he says to another yeshiva student, “I hate my body.” The young man responds, “So you hate god?”
In Jewish tradition, people are made in god’s image. In Tikkun, bodies are fearsome, straining on toilets or bleeding on the ground, hands clenched too tight. The movie, slow as life, is curious about how people live through a horror of themselves, the way their bodies betray them and they betray god. Shot like a photo album, gorgeous frame after gorgeous frame, it continually suggests that crisis and struggle can be beautiful when viewed from the right angle.
Directed by Avishai Sivan
Distributed by Kino Lorber
Opens June 10
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 7, 2016