Director Yuval Adler Discusses Berlin Festival Film ‘The Operative’

Israel filmmaker Yuval Adler created a stir with his 2013 film “Bethlehem,” a war drama about an Israeli secret service officer and his young Palestinian informant. Next up is “The Operative,” a thriller in which Diane Kruger stars as a woman recruited by the Mossad to work undercover in Iran. The film plays in competition at the Berlinale.

What attracted you to this project? You’re Israeli — was it the element of Mossad that you found so compelling?

The film is not really about Mossad or about Israel — it’s really a film about a woman who’s recruited into an intelligence outfit. The story is Mossad, but the film really examines this concept of espionage, which I found really interesting. And on a deeper level, it’s about people who don’t know what their place in the world is, and that’s something Diane Kruger and I have in common.  I’m Israeli, but I lived most of my adult life in New York. I’m always not sure where I belong and where I should be. When Diane read the story, she approached us about the film. She was born in Germany and later moved to France. If you ask Diane where she belongs, the issue of place is an issue for her, and for me, too, so that’s something where we connect and understand.

The spy that Diane plays is not the usual type of spy, correct?

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The character in the film is somebody who has a German mother, grew up in America and in Canada, and who got to Israel almost accidentally because of a relationship. The Mossad started to recruit her to do basic stuff in Berlin, in Germany, and they realize she has immense talent for it. What we wanted to create was a kind of accidental spy, not somebody who’s is ideological or Jewish — it’s somebody who kind of rolled into this thing because there’s something about this life where you simulate the life, it was perfect for her psychologically. This is what this film is about, really.

Do you prefer making films outside of Hollywood, or do you have an interest in making mainstream studio films?

“The Operative” is kind of a weird combination because it does have some American components and German and Israeli production and French components. I still haven’t made a film where I didn’t have final cut, so I didn’t have that experience, but, of course, I would love to try it in the right consideration. I’m very comfortable doing films where the budget is not so big and not that big commercial consideration.

Mostly, with my films I want to reach a wide audience. I like films that are accessible and that have wide appeal.

Do you think your experience in the Israeli army helped prepare you in any way for becoming a filmmaker?

I think there is something about the army in that at a very young age you have to take care of yourself. I remember my first day in the army, I was terrified, all I just wanted to get the hell out of there and I thought, what am I doing here? They throw you against the wall at an early age, but there’s something about it that helps you somehow get along [in life]. There is something about Israelis — we are good at producing and building stuff. You see it in start-ups. It’s a very Israel-type capability and intelligence. It’s not necessarily about the creative elements — it’s about pulling everything together. It’s a production thing, it’s a building thing. And I think being in the army and the Israeli mentality helps that when you are making a film.

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