Yardena (Assi Levi) is a travel agent who unexpectedly discovers she is pregnant, despite not sleeping with her husband for the last two years. Golan (Eli Finish) is a radio DJ faced with the tragedy of a dying girlfriend and the seemingly farcical task of reuniting the surviving members of a comedy trio for a reunion performance. Meron (Danny Steg) is a bitter and acrimonious man who experiences true phenomena when his ten-year-old son Nessi (Moshe Ashkenazi) awakens from an eight-year-long coma. Tsephi (Naama Shitrit) is a would-be writer who pays the bills cleaning other people’s houses and through a series of happenstance, finds herself the curator of all these entangled stories.
Taking its title from the Israeli aphorism, ‘The world is funny so I laugh’, director Shemi Zarhin’s forth film tells the entwined story of four ordinary people who struggle through extraordinary circumstances. Shot in the small town of Tiberias, in the north of provincial Israel, The World is Funny is a tightly knit narrative that weaves its multitude of storylines with all but effortless grace. An ambitious production in the vein of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, Zaehin’s film has already topped the Isareli box office, been nominated for an unprecedented 15 Ophir Awards, while also being named the country’s Oscar submission for best foreign language film.
At its heart, the film is about everyday people and the joys and tragedies that occur within their lives. Smartly written and slickly directed, the film is appealing to international viewers for its intrinsic human plot lines, however at times the comedy does seem especially culturally dependent. Those unaware of the ‘Gashash’ comedy trio may take some time to acclimatise to their national significance as one of Israel’s most celebrated troupes. That aside though, the production of the film is first class, with Yaron Scharf’s beautiful photography capturing the countryside of Israel in stunning composition, while the editing of Einat Glaser-Zarhin, manages to juggle the multiple narratives into a cohesive and seamless blend of character and genuine emotion.
One of the most notable elements of the film, is its aside from the well-told political tension of the region; opting in favour to sway away from politics and instead pull focus on the every day and social interactions of Israel and its people. The World is Funny is not only a terrific Israeli film, but also a universal and intrinsically humanistic one.
The World is Funny is on a limited release from 25 July, playing at Classic Elsternwick.