An overcooked ragout of genre elements — perfunctory supernatural thriller, idealistic Middle East political drama and a few slick, fragmentary dance numbers, “Forgiveness” requires a good bit of titular emotion from any viewer expecting a measured view of Arab-Israeli relations. Specialty fests and ancillary afterlife may pardon this well-intentioned but elaborate meller, though distribs are likely to forget it in short order.
Victim of an unknown trauma while serving in the Israeli army to escape his successful musician father (Michael Sarne), American Jew David Adler (Itay Tiran) is under the care of earnest doctor Isaac Shemesh (Makram J. Khoury) in a mental institution. But, the patients — elderly Holocaust survivors and recuperating young soldiers — seem to be getting worse instead of better.
Apparently unbeknownst to all save one agitated inmate (Moni Moshonov), called “Muselmann” after the German and Jewish term for the weakest people in Auschwitz, the facility was built on the site of a Palestinian village where more than 100 residents were killed by Israeli troops in 1948. While this may or may not explain the patients’ deteriorating behavior, medico has reluctantly begun doling out an experimental anti-memory drug.
Narrative then sprints both forward and back, revealing the source of David’s anguish while on patrol as well as his post-service romance in New York with Palestinian singer Lila (Clara Khoury). When the veteran ditches his meds, the distant and recent past converge on the present.
Any one of these plot strands might have made an interesting film. Woven together they’re a misshapen tapestry of conflicting emotions, held together by the spooky presence of a mysterious young girl (Tamara Mansour).
All tension is disrupted, however, by brief musical interludes, most egregious of which unfolds on an Israeli dance floor fitted with a “Flashdance”-like shower head.
Performances have a tangible self-consciousness, with only Khoury, luminously betrothed in “Rana’s Wedding” and “The Syrian Bride,” looking comfortable as an assertive divorcee and single mom.
Tech credits are crisp. Helmer Udi Aloni as much as admitted to world premiere Berlin fest aud he had little interest in tying up loose plot threads, deflecting political inquiries in favor of an invocation suggesting love is all we need.
That and a good script editor.