Thesis: Chyutin, Judaism, Contemporary Israeli Film, and the Cinematic Experience

Chyutin, Dan. A Hidden Light: Judaism, Contemporary Israeli Film, and the Cinematic Experience, PhD dissertation. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2015.
 
URL: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/26366/
 
Abstract

Throughout its brief history, Israeli cinema largely ignored Jewish religious identity, aligning itself with Zionism’s rejection of Judaism as a marker of diasporic existence. Yet over the past two decades, as traditional Zionism slowly declined, and religion’s presence became more pronounced in the public sphere, Israeli filmmakers began to treat Judaism as a legitimate cinematic concern. The result has been a growth in the number of Israeli films dealing with the realities of devoutly religious Jews, amounting to a veritable “Judaic turn” in Israel’s cinematic landscape. As of now, this “turn” has received meager attention within Israeli film scholarship. The following, then, addresses this scholarly lack by offering an extensive investigation of contemporary Judaic-themed Israeli cinema.

This intervention pursues two interconnected lines of inquiry. The first seeks to analyze the corpus in question for what it says on the Judaic dimension of present-day Israeli society. In this context, this study argues that while a dialectic of secular vs. religious serves as the overall framework in which these films operate, it is habitually countermanded by gestures that bring these binary categories together into mutual recognition. Accordingly, what one finds in such filmic representations is a profound sense of ambivalence, which is indicative of a general equivocation within Israeli public discourse surrounding the rise in Israeli Judaism’s stature and its effects on a national ethos once so committed to secularism.

The second inquiry follows the lead of Judaic-themed Israeli cinema’s interest in Jewish mysticism, and extends it to a film-theoretical consideration of how Jewish mystical thought may help illuminate particular constituents of the cinematic experience. Here emphasis is placed on two related mystical elements to which certain Israeli films appeal—an enlightened vision that unravels form and a state of unity that ensues. The dissertation argues that these elements not only appear in the Israeli filmic context, but are also present in broader cinematic engagements, even when those are not necessarily organized through the theosophic coordinates of mysticism. Furthermore, it suggests that this cycle’s evocation of such elements is aimed to help its national audience transcend the ambivalences of Israel’s “Judaic imagination.”

 

 

 

ToC: Jewish Film & Media 3.1 (2015); special issue: Israeli film & television

Jewish Film & Media, 3.1, Spring 2015

 

Israeli Film and Television
pp. 1-2
Yaron Peleg

Articles

Secularity and Its Discontents: Religiosity in Contemporary Israeli Culture
pp. 3-24
Yaron Peleg

“Lifting the Veil”: Judaic-Themed Israeli Cinema and Spiritual Aesthetics
pp. 25-47
Dan Chyutin

Jewish Revenge: Haredi Action in the Zionist Sphere
pp. 48-76
Yael Friedman, Yohai Hakak

Televised Agendas: How Global Funders Make Israeli TV More “Jewish”
pp. 77-103
Galeet Dardashti

POPU

Reviews

On Hasamba 3G: Newer Kinds of Jews
pp. 104-112
Tali Artman Partock

On Shtisel (or the Haredi as Bourgeois)
pp. 113-117
Yaron Peleg

 

New Article: Chyutin, Fleshing Out the Haredi Male Body in Avishai Sivan’s The Wanderer

Chyutin, Dan. “Judaic Cinecorporeality: Fleshing Out the Haredi Male Body in Avishai Sivan’s The Wanderer.” Shofar 33.1 (2014): 57-82.

 

URL: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/shofar/v033/33.1.chyutin.html

 

Abstract

This essay discusses the representation of the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) male body in Avishai Sivan’s noted feature The Wanderer (2010) as representative of contemporary Israeli cinema’s attitude towards Judaic corporeality. Using both sociological and theological literature, it highlights the ways by which this film orchestrates the details of ultra-Orthodox reality to mount a damning critique of Judaic regimes of corporeal regulation. According to this critique, Judaic corporeality exists in a condition of continuous repression, whereby it seeks to absent bodily desires, and even its own material presence. Through the adolescent protagonist Yitzhak, The Wanderer charts a trajectory of transgression and release from this repressive framework. The journey, however, does not entail liberation but rather culminates in destructive violence, consequently allowing the film to define pathological bodily behavior as inescapable both inside and outside the Haredi ghetto. While foregrounding the relevance of this assertion, the essay’s conclusion also traces its limits, which derive from the film’s problematic attempt to reduce ultra-Orthodox corporeality to the contours of certain antisemitic stereotypes of Old World Jewry.