“A Quiet Heart”
Seeking Anonymity and Solitude
Jerusalem today is a city that is increasingly dominated by religious fanaticism, Naomi Sarid (Ania Bukstein), a secular young woman seeks refuge from the pressure of her life as a concert pianist. She is overwhelmed by the expectations of her parents and her colleagues in Tel Aviv and seeks anonymity and solitude in Jerusalem. Despite her intentions to stay alone, however, Naomi quickly makes two unexpected connections, one with a musically gifted Ultra-Orthodox young boy who lives in her building and the other with Fabrizio (Giorgio Lupano), a charismatic Italian monk and organist. While these relationships allow Naomi to reconnect with her love of music and sense of meaning, they also make her a target in her new community. She faces escalating isolation and violence and Naomi has to learn to use music as a bridge to overcome towering religious barriers.
The film is set on the fault line between religious conservatives and secular liberals in contemporary Israel and has a great deal of emotional bite and drama. Already a domestic award-winner, writer-director Eitan Anner has directed strong performances and timely themes.
Escaping her native Tel Aviv to start a new life in Jerusalem, Naomi rents a threadbare apartment in a high-rise housing project in Kiryat Yovel, a hillside suburb that is dominated by hard-line Orthodox Jews. Her religious neighbors see her with suspicion. Naomi is alarmed to discover that Simcha (Lior Lifshitz), a mute preteen boy from an Orthodox family in the next building, has a habit of climbing in through her fifth-floor window to play a battered piano left behind by the previous tenant. She begins giving him lessons on how to play the piano.
In between working at her day job, Naomi faces constant passive-aggressive scrutiny from her neighbors, while a hostile traffic warden (Uri Gottlieb) gives her costly parking tickets on a daily basis. Her only escape is trying to rediscover her love of music, which starts to return after she hears the pipe organ played at a nearby Catholic monastery by a handsome Italian monk, Brother Fabrizio.
It soon becomes clear that Naomi’s peace of mind is likely to be assaulted by external pressures such as the open animosity from some of her neighbors, who consider a young secular woman living on her own as immoral in their close knit community. One young woman, an activist who is part of a group which is trying to stop the ultra-religious from taking over the neighborhood claims that his a war and the only connections that Naomi she manages to achieve are due to passion for music.
It is Simcha who holds the key to the truth about what happened to the previous tenant. Her other emotional link is with a charismatic Italian monk, Fabrizio (Giorgio Lupano), who agrees to teach her to play the pipe organ. The mutual attraction between the two is played out in intimate duets, shared glances and, just when it means most, a chaste kiss to the hand.
The connection with Fabrizio is a rare moment of harmony in a world which seems increasingly discordant as Naomi finds herself the target of a hate campaign.
Naomi’s hesitant friendship with Fabrizio is mildly flirtatious but never sexual. Even so, faceless neighborhood gossips use this to brand her as a “whore” and a “missionary,” demanding that she leave the area by using anonymous threats and increasingly stark warnings. Fearing reprisals, Simcha’s mother cancels the boy’s informal piano lessons with Naomi. There is evidence that seems to suggest the previous tenant in her apartment was driven to suicide by similar harassment tactics, or even murdered outright.
The drama is about the evils of intolerance. Director Anner succeeds in conveying a repressive, claustrophobic air of creeping unease and latent violence. Naomi’s housing block exudes a chilling, almost hostile mood and writer-director Anner has crafted a piece that is very symbolic of the subject of the coexistence of different religions, a topic inherently important to Israel, and especially Jerusalem. The film answer to this is that it takes courage from a brave individual to stand up against intolerance.