cover image Hidden Light: Judaism and Mystical Experience in Israeli Cinema

Hidden Light: Judaism and Mystical Experience in Israeli Cinema

Dan Chyutin. Wayne State Univ, $39.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-814350-67-6

Film scholar Chyutin (coeditor, Casting a Giant Shadow) explores “Judaism’s ascent in Israeli society through its reflection in cinema” in this ambitious yet frequently opaque outing. Among other subjects, Chyutin spotlights 1960s filmmakers who “harnessed the powers of nostalgia in order to make Judaism more palatable to the nation’s dominant Ashkenazi-Zionist tastes”; two religious Zionist filmmaking schools that emerged in the 1990s, each “creating Judaic filmic texts for the general audience (including gentiles)”; and movies from the 2000s and 2010s that tackle such hot-button topics as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of women and queer people in the Orthodox world. Later, Chyutin examines how Israeli films negotiate themes of “New Age–inflected Jewish mysticism,” focusing especially on Kabbalistic concepts and rituals. Despite some revealing moments—and intriguing links drawn between mysticism and cinema’s unique capacity to suspend disbelief—much of Chyutin’s in-depth analysis is dense and jargon-filled (“Though such unitive experiences are grounded in certain phenomenological-ontological realities, for Merleau-Ponty their realization is nevertheless contingent on a proper use of aesthetics”). Film scholars will find merit, though they’ll have to wade through the weeds to do so. (Sept.))