Between the end of Oedipus Rex and the beginning of Oedipus at Colonus lies the whole tragedy of humankind. Between the will to power and the will to weakness. People are running away from the trauma zone to try to find new life, only in order to find themselves back in the horror. This film tells the story –or, to be more precise, the consequences of the story—of two men who, at a young age, left the most terrible trauma zone that ever appeared on earth, i.e., Auschwitz. One, in his journey away from the camps, tried to seek redemption by maintaining control over his destiny and by reconstructing himself as 'normal.' This is our Henry Adler, who, after Auschwitz, joined the Israeli forces in the 1948 war and then moved to America to become one of the most successful musicians. Henry Adler, who had a son in order to prove to himself the continuity of Jewishness in particular, humankind in general. He is our Oedipus, believing that life can beat death and that reason can beat chaos at any price. On the other hand, we have Yaakov (Muselmann), the one who doesn't believe that any price can be paid just in order to maintain life. Yet he is not dead. He is our Oedipus at Colonus, who is the double of Tiresias, the blind prophet.
Director's Objective - Forgiveness
People of Thebes, my countrymen, look on Oedipus. He solved the famous riddle with his brilliance, He rose to power, a man beyond all power. Who could behold his greatness without envy? Now what a black sea of terror has overwhelmed him. Now as we keep our watch and wait the final day, Count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.
-End of Oedipus Rex
My child, child of the blind old man – Antigone, Where are we now? What land, what city of men? Who will receive the wandering Oedipus today? Not with gifts but a pittance… it's little I ask And get still less, but quite enough for me. Acceptance-that is the great lesson suffering teaches.
-Beginning of Oedipus at Colonus
Between these two characters lies the entire post-Auschwitz ethic of the West, and there is no better place to illustrate the dilemma than Israel-Palestine. Primo Levi describes the Muselmann in the camps as a non-alive creature: even though there is no life in his eyes, he is not dead. Even though he cannot bear witness to the horror, he is, by his very existence, the testimony to the horror itself.
I placed the Muselmann and the entire story in a mental institute built in Israel on the ruins of a Palestinian village, Deir Yassin, most of the inhabitants of which were massacred in 1948. (This mental institute exists to this day and its first patients were Holocaust survivors.) I placed the psychological story in the soul of our protagonist David Adler, the son of Henry Adler and the one who carries the trauma into the future.
The mood of the film is located between the real and the uncanny. Between the conscious and the unconscious. From this mood emerges the aesthetic of the film. Within the mental institute, the aesthetic structure of the film will function vertically, as the undead (the victims of the massacre from the underground village) communicate with the unalive (the hospital patients) using the mental institute as conduit between the two worlds. Within the horizontal line of the narrative, the hospital acts as the hub from which flashbacks and flashforwards to New York, Israel, and Palestine emerge. FORGIVENESS tries to point to where the internal wounds of tragic heroes and tragic nations are bleeding and to suggest the possibility of an opening or a hope.