Harvey Keitel to Star in Pavel Lungin’s ‘Esau,’ Modern Retelling of Biblical Story

Fraternal drama is based on novel by Israeli author Meir Shalev

Pavel Lungin
Photo by Martin Dale

Harvey Keitel, Lior Ashkenazi (“Foxtrot”) and Mark Ivanir (“Homeland”) will headline “Esau,” the first English-language film from acclaimed Russian-French director Pavel Lungin.

“Esau,” which is being adapted from the novel of the same name by Israeli author Meir Shalev, follows a 40-year-old writer who returns to his family home after half a lifetime to face the brother who stole both his love and livelihood. The story is a modern twist on the biblical story of Jacob and Esau in the book of Genesis.

“My film is a story of great love, return and merciless time,” said Lungin, who first revealed that he was working on the project about a year and a half ago. “It tells us that there are things in life when time is not a great healer at all, and there are sorts of mistakes that simply shouldn’t be made.”

“The conflicts and jealousies of loving that unfold in this story have the power of taking one’s breath away,” Keitel added.

Other cast members are Yulia Peresild (“Battle for Sevastopol”), Kseniya Rappoport (“The Unknown Woman”), and Shira Haas (“Princess”, “Foxtrot”). A cameo from Israeli theatrical grand dame Gila Almagor has also been announced.

Lungin, whose other credits include “Taxi Blues” and “Luna Park,” is one of the most notable filmmakers to emerge in modern Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He also directed several episodes of Russian TV political thriller series “Rodina,” which is based on the same Israeli show that became “Homeland” in the U.S.

Shalev is one of modern Israeli literature’s more prolific figures, with more than 30 books to his name. “Esau” is the first to be adapted for the screen. “All authors write about love and death, memory and longing, passion and loneliness. ‘Esau’ is the best I could tell about all that,” said Shalev.

Filming is set to being in early April in central Israel, and is slated to reach theaters in 2019.