Pearl Gluck travels to Hungary to retrieve a turn-of-the-century family heirloom: a couch upon which esteemed rabbis once slept. En route for the ancestral divan, Pearl encounters a colorful cast of characters who provide guidance and inspiration. (Zeitgeist Films)
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P. S. I was interesting .
The thing about this movie is that it begins more as a cultural study of Hassidic Jews (focussing on Brooklyn), as they're represented through the voices of the people who have left the community. There was something a little unsettling about this section of the movie; one the one hand, we know that the narrator comes from the community, and has earned the right, as it were, to criticise it. On the other hand, since we hear only the voices of the Hassidim who have left, only get a sense of their personalities, the actual Hassidic community seems distant, almost caricatured.
What makes this portrait, and the movie, richer, is what Gluck did not originally intend to happen: it becomes a personal story about her life, her search for identity, and most movingly, her attempt to reconnect with her father. What we realise in the end is that as much as she sees her father's community critically, as much as she is happy with having moved away from its norms, she still needs his approval. This is where the movie shifts from being a cultural study of a specific group to a story that almost any human being can associate with: that is the story of a child who wants his parent to be proud of him.
It is perhaps telling that I cried in two spots: first, halfway through the movie, as Gluck and a Jewish tour guide in Hungary (or was it Ukraine) look at a Holocaust memorial. This was a tragedy I empathised with deeply, but it was not *my* tragedy. The second moment came at the end, when Gluck's father visits her apartment for the first time in eight years. The need for a father's approval was, ultimately, my story.
This was a special divan because visiting Hasidic rabbis used to sleep on it. She was determined to travel to Hungary, purchase the divan, and bring it back to America.
Ms. Gluck takes the audience along with her on her journey which has the feel of an intimate home movie. Her quest seemed strange to me but I found myself intrigued and just couldn't stop watching the film. The town in Hungary where she goes has been devastated by the Holocaust. There are barely any Jews left. However, she does find a family who owns the divan, but they refuse to sell it to her. She then continues her quest for a similar divan and brings it back to America.
That's the whole story but the film was good because it gave me an insight into the closeness as well as the restrictions of that very special community. It was also entertaining, especially when everybody she met tried to get her to meet a marriageable young man.
Clearly, this is not a film for everyone. But I think I learned something from it that was a little more personal than something I would see on the history channel.