A Tale of Love and Darkness

Natalie Portman makes her directorial feature debut with an adaptation of Amos Oz’s internationally acclaimed autobiographical novel A Tale of Love and Darkness, first published in Hebrew in 2002. It has since been translated into 28 languages and has sold more than a million copies worldwide. Determined to make the film in Hebrew, Portman took eight years to write the script and find funding, during which time she also worked meticulously to erase any hint of an American accent from her Hebrew in order to portray Amos’s Eastern European mother. The story is set in Jerusalem during the birth of Israel and its aftermath. However, the film avoids relying solely on its historical framework to create a dramatic premise. At its core, Amos’s story is about his relationship with his tragic, complicated mother and her eventual suicide. Taking cues from the novel, Portman’s entrancing Fania Oz suffers from a burden of her experiences as a woman that resonates throughout the greater historical narrative being woven around her. She is a woman who saw horror and salvation, only to leave both behind. The film is an important contribution to a constantly unfolding story that tends to regard its people as symbols of a collective identity. Portman’s adaptation is a beautiful dissent. —Neha Talreja