The Five Houses of Lea Goldberg (2011, Israel)

As a member of the Jewish Film Festival, organized by the Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County, I preview movies to help decide which ones to play at the Festival. I watched the following movie as part of this volunteer effort.

The most succinct summary of “The Five Houses of Lea Goldberg“– a documentary, narrated in Hebrew– is early on as we read the subtitles: “This is the story of the loves, poems and fears of the woman who chose Hebrew and Hebrew chose her.” Lea Goldberg was a prolific, influential Israeli poet, born in 1969 in Lithuania and died in 1970 in Jerusalem. The “five houses” in the title refer to the five segments of the movie, as titled below

  • First House: The House of Hebrew – about her early years, including how she found Hebrew
  • Second House: Tel Aviv 1935 – the war years and how she found home in Palestine in 1933
  • Third House: House of Love – on her love life, including a long unrequited love with Avrhama Ben Yitzhak
  • Fourth House: In Perpetual Motion – on her work and style
  • Fifth House: The Last House – her struggle with cancer and death

I admit I never heard of Lea Goldberg before and I am not much of a poetry aficionado, but I liked this movie for these reasons:

  • It was structured as a poem, which fit very well its topic.
  • The music was soothing and the songs were beautifully sang, I wish a soundtrack would be available.
  • Incorporating innovative animation, evoking Monthy Python but without their harsh humor, added a lot visually and brought even more life to the old photographs used.
  • All the doc’s talking heads–her friends, literary theorists, editors–had either fond things to say of her or explained her art with real good analytic sense.

The description at the distributor’s site reads:

Lea Goldberg was a prolific poet, author, playwright, translator and researcher of literature. Her writings, regarded as classics of Israeli literature, remain extremely popular among Hebrew speakers where she is considered the feminine equivalent of Bialik.

Although Lea Goldberg died 41 years ago she is still an enigmatic figure – a powerful woman who lived with her mother and never married, a woman who reinvented herself from the ashes of the First World War and became Israel’s most beloved poet.

The film is a cinematic fantasy in five acts using animation, after effects, still photos, original music and interviews which, taken together, celebrates the story of L.Goldberg.


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