For Eran Kolirin, helmer of “The Exchange” (HaHithalfut), which preems in competition at Venice today, filmmaking of late is a case of art imitating life.
Kolirin’s sophomore effort follows 2007’s “The Band’s Visit” (Bikur ha-tizmoret), which won eight Ophir awards from the Israeli Film and Television Academy and widespread critical acclaim, thrusting the helmer-scribe into the international spotlight.
In the publicity whirlwind that followed, Kolirin found himself often alone on the road, spending weeks at time in indistinguishable hotel rooms, away from home and the people and things he was used to.
“You start to lead this kind of life where you’re mostly in transition,” Kolirin said. “You’re staying in hotels and landing at big airports. You have all the time in the world and nothing really to do.”
In the midst of that vacuum, Kolirin put his life under a microscope. From the ensuing big questions — of the “what-does-this-all-mean?” variety — “The Exchange” was born.
Pic traces the existential crisis of an ordinary man, Oded (newcomer Rotem Keinan), who arrives home early one day to find that the banalities of his life look entirely unfamiliar.
“This is a horror movie without the horror,” said Kolirin with a chuckle. “In a very strict, boring movie, a man comes home one day to find his wife having an affair with another man. Which for some people may be horrifying, but it’s much more horrifying to find that you are living in an apartment, and you have a wife, and you go to work every day, and you have a refrigerator, and you have a TV, and this is the way you live and this is the way you’re going to die.”
Kolirin cast another unknown, Sharon Tal, as Oded’s wife Tami. Tal trained as a stage actor and was new to the Tel Aviv film scene when she met Kolirin. “I am from Jerusalem,” she said by way of explanation. “I was not used to going on auditions.”
Filming, she said, which took place in central Israel with studio shoots in Germany, often felt like making music. “The scenes, and the movie itself, are built like movements,” she said. “The beginning is very much like an overture.”
Kolirin’s first film, of course, was all about music, and he hopes auds will keep their comparisons at bay. “In many ways I can see the connection, but on the other hand I would like to put up a big sign saying This Is Not ‘The Band’s Visit!’ ” Kolirin said.
The movie draws its strength from its unconventionality, Kolirin said, and even though some viewers may struggle with its style, he is immensely proud of what he has created.
“People have unfortunately been trained by cinema that there has to be a body, there has to be a bad guy. In this movie, it’s not the way it is. The absence of the reason is the reason,” he said.