The 2010 Israeli film Naomi (the Hebrew title actually means Outburst X or Eruption X) has at its center Ilan Ben-Natan, (Yossi Pollak),a professor of astrophysics who turns sixty during the course of the film, and his relationships with his gorgeous, twenty-eight year old wife Naomi (Melanie Peres) and his mother (Orna Porat).
Ilan is deeply in love with Naomi and, when he discovers she is having an affair with Oded (Rami Heuberger), a man closer to Naomi’s age, he is not especially surprised but he is overwhelmed. He does not know what to do, and the film depicts the consequences of his discovery.
Director Eitan Tzur has made a quiet, unflamboyant film, one that ponders its characters. At one point Oded says of a drawing he made of Naomi that he tried to capture her elusiveness. Elusiveness is one of the aspects of the film itself. While we learn something of Ilan and his mother, though not, perhaps, as much of Naomi, much remains unknown or uncertain.
For example, though she is engaged in adultery, Naomi seems to have affection for Ilan. How real and deep is this affection? How much, if at all, is she sentimentalizing her emotions? Similarly, at one point Ilan tells Naomi of how his mother did not love his father but agreed to her husband’s request to continue to live with her, at the price of him allowing her to have affairs with other men in their home. Judging by her facial expression, Naomi finds this distasteful, but one wonders why. Does she consider it morally wrong in some way, or somehow vulgar?
Naomi herself is depicted as anything but vulgar, either in her looks or her behavior, but neither is she mannered. She is a commercial artist who takes her work seriously and also her preparation of meals.
Ilan’s relationship with his mother is a compound of humor, affection, and pain. It is very important to Ilan, and we are, I think, given to understand this relationship more fully than the Ilan-Naomi one.
The film is an effective, intriguing character study. Unlike Eric Rohmer’s witty, insightful films or Woody Allen’s best character study, Husbands and Wives, silence is at least as important as dialogue and much fruitfully remains unexplained. This is a film of understated intensity that stimulates reflection.