The opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival last week, dazzled with the grand premiere of "Golda," the acclaimed creation by Oscar winner Guy Nattiv, featuring starring Helen Mirren, who graced the occasion herself.
The film delves into the solitude of Israel's enigmatic Prime Minister during the tumultuous Yom Kippur War. Self-righteous protests erupted when the news broke that Mirren, a non-Jewish British actress, was chosen to portray Golda Meir. This fiery "Jewface" debate once again highlights how radical political correctness can cloud artistic judgment. Yet as soon as she appears on screen, Helen Mirren embodies the essence of the controversial premier.
Golda premiered at the Berlin Festival last February and begins with the prime minister testifying before a special committee investigating the failings of the military and the government, in the lead-up to the war.
The narrative choice has some issues as the committee discussions aren't the film's focus, and the pre-war period is mostly avoided. Instead, the film portrays Golda as both vulnerable and determined, and highlights her influence over American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, compelling him to delay a ceasefire decision, while eating borscht in her kitchen to avoid offending her Holocaust survivor cook.
All other roles, those of senior members of the IDF, were portrayed by Israeli actors. The interaction between them and Mirren's character is marked by an unsettling contrast, primarily stemming from the contrived accent that draws excessive attention. However, this accent, a mixture of Russian and American, also serves to underscore Golda's sense of being an outsider within a male-dominated military decision-making framework, where she stands as the sole woman – a maternal presence among soldiers, diligently recording the number of fallen sons in her diary. She truly embodies the role of a mother who sends them to their deaths, and this reality deeply troubles her.
In Nattiv's film, Golda emerges as a singular figure in a pivotal historical context, leading a nation during a war that poses a significant existential threat. The movie employs intimate close-up shots of Mirren-Golda, isolating her from the surroundings, and delving deep into her character during this traumatic period.
The film, penned by Nicholas Martin, intricately portrays the dynamic between Golda and her personal assistant, as well as the subtle, expressive exchanges with a war veteran's father during cabinet meetings. The most compelling scenes unfold between these women, offering a female perspective on war. Golda's deliberate walk through the morgue, her secret journey for cancer treatment during the war, and her persistent chain smoking in the hospital all underscore her profound connection with mortality.
"Golda was extraordinarily brave and her commitment to Israel was total," Mirren said, bringing up a comparison with another historical leader, keeping it in the realm of female leadership. "It was a bit like playing Queen Elizabeth I of England, in the sense of her commitment to her country and to her people."