A glossy Gothic horror film/romance set in a timeless, stylized Jerusalem, “The Dybbuk of the Holy Apple Field” is a Swiss-German-Israeli co-production clearly aimed at reaching Jewish audiences around the world. Using the mystical tradition of the kabala as a folkloric plot device and Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox community as a colorful backdrop, Israeli director Yossi Somer tells the schmaltzy story of two doomed young people whose love reaches beyond the grave. Israeli critics have given the film a wide berth, but it was a resounding hit with auds at its Haifa festival preem.
Ayelet Z’urer, the film’s biggest asset, plays the beautiful young Lea, a rich girl loved by the hip Hanan (Yehezkel Lazarov). Her evil father — who was the business partner of Hanan’s father, mysteriously killed when he was a child — bears a grudge against the boy, and promises Lea in marriage to the son of a rich Hebrew school director. To stay near his beloved, Hanan enrolls in the school, shaves off his long locks and trades in his jeans for religious togs.
In his free time, Hanan bones up on black magic from some off-limits kabala tomes, conjuring up lotsa snappy special effects despite the warnings of a wise old rabbi (Yuval Zamir). The big scenes are saved for the end when, after being murdered, Hanan takes possession of Lea’s voluptuous body, writhes around in a thin nightgown and speaks in a baritone.
Lacking the authentic creepiness of such classic horror tales as “The Golem,” pic is content to relocate familiar ghost-story images to the novel setting of Jerusalem’s orthodox Jewish community. Attractive actors, simplified dialogue and facile emotions do the rest. Manu Kadosh’s camerawork is heavy on pretty close-ups of the lovers and vaporous fumes rising over mysterious alleyways. Pic doesn’t require much knowledge of the Jewish religion to follow the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”–like plot.