The film series goes out with a lush, thoughtful movie that is more than a Biblical allegory ... although it certainly is that.
“Harmonia” is a beautiful film written and directed by Ori Sivan. Although it is set in contemporary Jerusalem, it s based on the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, from Genesis.
Alon Aboutboul is Abraham, the handsome, intense conductor of the Jerusalem Philharmonic Orchestra. Tali Sharon is Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who plays the harp in the orchestra.
Yanna Yossef plays Hagar, who pays the French horn and becomes a member of the orchestra.
Sarah cannot have children — all her pregnancies result in miscarriage. After she has become extremely close to Hagar, she suggests to Abraham that Hagar conceive his child, and that that Abraham and Sarah will raise it.
And that they do, with Hagar leaving the orchestra. But the boy Ben/Ismail is sullen and contrary. Even though he is musically gifted, he doesn’t want to play the piano, as he mother instructs him.
At last, Abraham and Sarah do have a child of their own. Isaac is sweet and quiet, but Ismail is out of control.
The atmosphere, including the gorgeous cinematography and score, is lush — a true feast for the senses. Subtitles from Genesis help viewers follow along the Biblical story as the contemporary tale unfolds.
There’s more than the story of the three adults involved. Ismail, after all, is half Arabic in this telling. He is brought up in a Jewish Israeli home, but never quite fits in.
Music, and indeed the very music the characters perform, and how they play their instruments, is a crucial element in this film. Music represents the way the characters feel, with each playing a different instrument. And take note — pun intended — of the use of the Rimsky-Korsakov “Scheherazade” that carries the Arabic theme throughout the film, which also emphasizes the clash between people in the family and the cultures within the world at large.
Always, the characters seek harmony, sometimes through music and sometimes through understanding.
The acting is superlative. I love the way the two women share a deep friendship, and how they are so comfortable with each other that the idea that one could conceive a child for the other seems to be a natural part of the friendship.
There is a slightly surreal feel to the movie, too, which intensifies the emotions in the story itself and the audience. It will appeal especially to viewers who have an understanding and affinity for symphonic music — they will find this harmonious indeed.