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Everlasting Joy

Director - Igal Bursztyn
1996, Hebrew

Cast: Arial Zilber, Yael Almog

A Five Minutes Walk
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"Everlasting Joy" tells the story of Spinoza, his six neighbors, two spies and a washing machine, all desperately in pursuit of Man’s Eternal Happiness. In the end, they find it.

This filmic fantasy takes place in 17th century Holland and in 20th century Israel. The stories of Spinoza and his six neighbors combine into a single plot based on events in Spinoza’s life. The narrator (voice only) relates what happened in the suburbs of Amsterdam and the Hague between 1632-1677. These historical facts (and myths) accompany fictional events which take place today in a working-class suburb of Tel Aviv. Spinoza’s dialogue consists of quotations from his writings.

From the beginning, Spinoza seeks solitude in order to type his meditations on his home computer. Often disturbed by his noisy neighbors, he unsuccessfully tries to avoid them. From time to time, he goes to Tel Aviv to meet Clara-Marie, with whom he is having an unhappy love affair. She loves him, but marries their mutual friend, Dr. Dirck Kerkrinck, a wealthy gynecologist who owns a small, but elegant, Japanese car and buys her jewels.

Wherever Spinoza goes and whatever he does, he is followed by two spies who peep into his apartment with binoculars, search his garbage for incriminating documents, record his conversations and film his meetings on video. For a good reason. There is a war going on.

Spinoza, at first only involved in the lives of his neighbors, gradually becomes involved with his entire community. His young neighbor gets killed while serving army duty. Clara-Marie and her husband leave for New York. A friendly politician is under threat of assassination. In an attempt to start peace talks with the Palestinians, Spinoza drives to the Palestinian town of Ramallah. (Repeating another abortive attempt to stop the French-Dutch wars in Utrecht in 1673). The Palestinians refuse to listen to him, while the Jews accuse him of treason. Peace is finally concluded, but it doesn’t make Spinoza’s neighbors (those who survived) any happier. Nobody remembers Spinoza contributions to peace. Embittered, he decides to accept an invitation to lecture at a university in Germany.

Meanwhile, Clara-Marie has divorced her husband and has returned from New York. She is shocked to discover that Spinoza is gradually becoming a Yuppie. With her support, Spinoza overcomes his momentary weakness, stays with his neighbors and convinces them that the only way to achieve Eternal Happiness is through the intellectual love of God. The film concludes with a happy ending: all of Spinoza’s neighbors, spies, Palestinians, Clara-Marie and even the washing machine reunite to contemplate the wisdom of Spinoza.

Script: Igal Bursztyn
Photography: Jorge Gurvich

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