Published Apr 30, 2009Without any degree of subtlety, Lemon Tree treads familiar cinematic territory, providing an allegory for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that breaks its own wall, acknowledging its significance, while dancing around atrophied patriarchal dominance as women quietly suffer. It's a film of futile empowerment, changing landscapes and existential battles, given its template of human reduction in the face of broad deductive logic.
The female victim of broad rationalization in this case is Salma (Hiam Abbass), a lone widow that makes her living off the lemon orchard her father left her when he passed. Unfortunately, this orchard grows along the Green Line, which separates Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank, causing a kerfuffle when Israeli Defense Minister Israel (Doron Tavory) and his comely wife Mira (Rona Lipaz-Michael) move in on the other side.
It seems that terrorists could easily hide in the orchard and attack the political pundit, leaving the Israeli Secret Service to flex their muscle and take away the last semblance of meaning in Salma's life.
Again, little is particularly beguiling about showing a woman, who quite literally made lemonade when life handed her lemons, having those lemons taken away from her. It's about losing that last sense of dignity, only to have those in positions of authority brush it off as insignificant, given its relative frivolity in relation to the broader conflict.
While many may scoff at the reductionist nature of the lemon tree parable, thinking it represents only the conflict, the film attempts mainly to give voice to the many overlooked and seemingly insignificant injustices that war creates.
Deliberately heavy-handed, the film is far from popcorn fare but is certainly more accessible than most political propaganda movies, offering fine performances, a (mostly) crisp technical package and an appropriate emotional centre. Anyone willing to tackle the subject matter should be pleased. (E1)