Review of Gilgul Mechilot & Forgiveness
written by Judith Butler
Udi Aloni's collection renews a theological reflection in the midst of ordinary life, popular culture, contemporary scenes of life and death. His film, "Local Angel," brings us into visual contact with Walter Benjamin's concept of the "ruin" that animated fragment from the past that drives us in ways that we cannot always know. He moves to the center of violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians only to find there remnants of a theological relation to the 'Temple Mount' that furtively circumscribes the struggle over land, property, ownership, and claims to time and space.
In his screenplay, "Forgiveness," it is the land and the mental institution built there that acts as the ruin, foreclosing the possibility of a return to the death and displacement of Palestinians who lived in the village of Diryasin. The mental receives the Jews who emerge from the Nazi genocide as 'musulman' - traumatized to the point of losing speech and self-reference. So the musulman, the muslim, the christian, and the Jew are compounded here at this multiple and unfathomable site of loss, where on the land where a Palestinian village was destroyed, an Israeli mental institution is built to receive the destroyed lives of Jews from the concentration camps. Madness ensues, but what alternative is there?
In his meditation, "Jocasta's Dream" Aloni makes clear that there are those humans who are murdered from the start, who live their murdered life not only in spite of their apparent death, but through the endless terms of that death-like world. Suicide is not simply a tragic conclusion, but a sign only that one has ceased to be able to stop the cycle of violence and the evisceration of those sites that allow for mourning to begin.
There is no single loss in this terrain of destroyed villages, destroyed lives, only a question of whether the law that mandates continuing destruction can be openly opposed, whether the sites can be reclaimed for open mourning, and whether a new generation can break the curse that animates the places in their partial memories and constitutive disavowals, whether a wide enough angle can take in the full array of loss, mourning, violence, and inadvertent hope. Since hope, too, emerges in tandem with destruction, only because loss binds us, and binding is the condition for new community.
Aloni lays bare the visual landscape of these ruins, finding theological and mythological resonance in the political and emotional dilemmas they pose. And in the laying bare, some hope emerges for a life that is not murdered from the start, whose birth is not implicated in the curse of revenge, whose ability to acknowledge an irreparable loss makes way for another future.