“There is no shadow in the desert”: a troubled love story

There is no shadow in the desert , by Yossi Aviram, director of The Dune (2014), is first and foremost a story of a tandem. The one formed by the Israeli filmmaker and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, co-writer and main actress of this unclassifiable film, combining several animated sequences.

This romance, anchored in the trial of a former Nazi, ventures into the slippery terrain of a road movie before charming us with its form, its enigmatic story and its fantasy, despite the seriousness of the subject. In short, it breathes life, and this is due to the fact that the Franco-Italian actress, who plays a writer, Anna, renews her game, less fanciful than usual, in a mixture of strength and fragility.

Quest for identity

Born in 1971 in Jerusalem, Yossi Aviram has had boundless admiration for Tedeschi since he discovered, in 2003, his first autofictional and analytical feature film, It’s Easier for a Camel , this title resonates quite obviously with There is no shadow in the desert . From the humped animal to the burning sand, there is only one step and Yossi Aviram’s drama tells nothing other than a quest for identity, with several entries.

First there is this trial of a former Nazi executioner, in Tel Aviv, which survivors of the Shoah, called as witnesses, are called upon to identify. Among these survivors is Anna’s father (Jackie Berroyer), who lives in Paris. He feels tired and dreads this moment when he will find himself on the stand, confronted by his former torturer. Anna is desperate to convince him to attend the hearing and ends up flying off before him. There, at the courthouse, she meets a man, Ori (Yona Rozenkier, also director), whose mother has just given a poignant testimony.

Ori immediately calls Anna by her first name and introduces himself as a former lover – a fleeting but intense affair, which dates from twenty years ago, he explains. Anna assures him that he is wrong, but trouble sets in. Ori has obviously read all of Anna’s books, which are largely autobiographical, and keeps reminding her of details of her past life.

At this point, the question of the credibility of this man – impostor? – rubs off on the film. What are we taking the viewer into? Likewise, is Anna telling the truth and, if not, what is she looking for? The writer who seems to have her head on her shoulders should perhaps worry, distance herself – besides the specter of looming violence –, but There is no shadow in the desert borrows from other tracks.

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