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Slowly, don’t rush / Three Sisters
Yoram Bronowski, journalist, Haaretz November 6, 1998.


This is the second time that filmmaker and script writer Tsipi Reibenbach has kept me in my seat for over an hour, entranced by another chapter – another era almost – in her powerful family saga. The first chapter was “Choice and Destiny” an amazing film consisting almost entirely of an uninhibited Yiddish monologue by her father, Yitzhak, about his experiences in the Holocaust. Her mother, Fruma, was in the film too, but mainly in the background, half listening, half refusing to listen, and then bursting out toward the end.

Reibenbach’s new film, “Three Sisters” (Tuesday, Channel One, 21:20) begins with the mother, as she sits and writes her reminiscences in Polish (a more enlightened language?) mouthing the words to herself, they turn into pictures of the two other heroines of both the film and the past: her two sisters – Karola, four years older than Fruma and Ester, four years younger. There is no point in describing the movie. It has to be seen and mulled over in order to savor its artistry and the immense power that comes from documenting in minute detail the lives of three elderly sisters and their spouses. Ester’s husband, Isser, dies towards the end of the film. Fruma’s husband, Yitzhak (Reibenbach’s father) continues to plod off to the doctor, who measures his blood pressure and assures Fruma he is perfectly fine. A few moments earlier, we see him shedding a tear (rare, it seems) at Isser’s funeral.

What Reibenbach gives us is hyper-realism, a rare genre that is almost the opposite of realism. We become aware of reality in such a slow, exacting, painstaking manner that the outcome borders on the fantastic, even the comic, but in fact it is tragic. Viewing the human condition under the microscope of a merciless artist who dares to adopt this style has a cathartic effect. It creates the “cleansing of emotions” that Aristotle believed was the essence and purpose of tragedy.

Realism is very common in movies, almost run-of-the-mill, but hyper-realism is not. On rare occasions, you may find it in great painting (the Dutch masters, for example, and perhaps Flemish painters like Hieronymous Bosch) or in literature. Reibenbach’s documentary, with so many scenes shot in old-age homes like Hemdat Avot (Joy of the Forefathers. Can you believe the names of old-age homes in this country?). Where Karola lives and dies calls to mind the major work of hyper-realism in Israeli literature today: Yehoshua Kenaz’s “All the Way to the Cats.”

Addressing this film from a methodological standpoint is an escape, and I know it. It is an attempt to distance myself from the shocking impact of this quiet Yiddish and Hebrew-speaking film, that shows us objects from daily life and faces familiar to all of us (those accustomed to sitting in the corridors of Kupat Holim clinics will be amazed at how accurately Reibenbach captures the faces and motions of these people) which have nothing special or unusual about them but bring us frighteningly close to the all-too-human, human body.

There is some burrowing into the complicated past to this family – the men initially courted different sisters than the ones they ended up marrying – but these dramatic bits pale in comparison to shots of Ester’s bulging varicose veins. In one typical scene, Ester, the younger sister, who still fits Fruma’s description of being “little and sort of mischievous” even in old age, tries to get her dying husband to exercise as he once did. Pulling his arms into position, she says, “Slowly now, don’t rush.”

Tsipi Reibenbach seems to be following her order too. Slowly, without rushing, she has created one of the most powerful films to cross our screens.




Some Comments on "A City with no Pity"


“The film touches the white spots of my mind. I know it will stay with me for many days. I was speechless when it was finished. It makes you think. I can’t stop thinking about it. I never knew that films like this do exist.”
Dr. Gudrun Prengel, city and region sociologist, university of Berlin.


“A courageous film, full of poetry and beautiful sinlence.”
Martin Forberg, journalist, Berlin. 12.2.03


“Let me thank you for braving our Berlin and sharing your work and unique vision/perspective with us.”
Prof. Dr. Carolyn Landry, Berlin. 10.2.03


Silent and absence are integral parts of Reibenbach's works: Her four full- length films represent one of he most unique collections of personal creativity in the history of Israeli documentary cinema. Reibenbach has a voice of her own, charting her personal path meticulously, persistently and out of a sense of total commitment.
...Reibenbach's four films are her cinematic autobiography, devoid of arrogance or a sense of self-importance that are pervasive among filmmakers who believe they are the center of the world they document. Reibenbach's work on the other hand stems from a thought process that investigates past events and human spirit's place in them.
Uri Klein, film critic, "Haaretz", 4.4.03, Tel Aviv.


“It is a film full of music with a picture of surrealistic scenes, which together emphasize the melancholy and strengthen the sadness. Tsipi Reibenbach observes the tough, strong reality with fearless directness and points to a possible future when Israel is no more a land of shelter and refuge. This is not expressed with words but is exactly what the strong and beautiful picture depicts.”
Gesine Stremple, SFB, radio kultur, Berlin. 12.2.03

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