In Hebrew with English subtitles.
The kindergarten teacher of the title of the film has been in the classroom for twenty years. Her calm assured way with children shows her years of seasoning. When one of the boys begins declaiming his poetry after a nervous bit of pacing, Nira (Sarit Larry) is enchanted and convinced that the boy is a genius, someone like Mozart who needs to be nurtured so that his talent will blossom and benefit all of mankind.
The filmmaker’s ideas that poets are endangered, that children are not appreciated when their gifts arise unexpectedly, that modern life is coarse and ignores the true beauty all around us, are demonstrated clearly. But I couldn’t help thinking every time Nira or someone else heard the boy declaim his poetry and thought it was great, was it really great? Was the translation the problem, or did the boy have the potential for greatness but was really just a boy with a dramatic flair for the poetic — not a genuine poet whose work can last the test of time. I wanted to buy into the premise of this extremely idealistic woman when it came to her notions of art, but the mediocrity of the verse interfered.
Even so, the movie was in large part riveting to watch, with miraculous performances by all concerned, especially Sarit Larry as Nira, whose focus on what is important was extraordinary. There was tension in every scene. I waited for some violence to occur, even just when Nira was walking across the street, or the boy was bathing in the sea. An open window was always a sign of menace, the potential for disaster. Watching the movie was sort of exhausting. It put me on high alert at all times to strip meaning from every image and sound. Is this what it is like to live in Israel, or to live now anywhere in the world?
The sound design of the movie was hard on the ears. Blaring tv shows and hideously loud music chip away at our senses. There are several scenes of dancing, and each time, the dancers lack grace in almost comical ways. In a very amusing scene in a bar after a poetry reading, a man seems to be having a fit, jerking his arms around and then his girlfriend does the same thing, and a third, and the whole notion of dance as a sputtering attempt to express oneself is in perfect keeping with the rest of the movie. Humans want to dance, and to write poetry, but we are forgetting how. Contemporary life has convinced us that these things are less important.
I had problems with the tight close ups of faces, and with not knowing if the character was just living in her head, or was actually trying to prove something. Many dramatic roles in the canon of drama could be laid to mental illness or obsessive personality, or other modern ways of looking at extreme eccentrics and depressed people. In The Kindergarten Teacher, Nira not only is extreme in her thoughts, but in her actions which lead to terrible consequences.