Odds are your reaction to Michael Moshe Dahan’s YES REPEAT NO is going to be one of two things. You are either going to dismiss the film as pretentious twaddle and storm out of it or you are going to fall into the film and feel as though you were just smashed in the head with brick as you grasp for words to try and fully understand everything that you have been made to think about and feel over the course of 100 minutes.
My reaction was to feel I was beaten up with a brick.
A conceptual film, the film is nominally an attempt of three actors to audition for a part in a film about the life of Juliano Mer-Khamis, a Palestinian-Jewish actor and activist who identified as 100% Palestinian and 100% Jewish and who was shot dead on the steps of the theater he founded. The actors (and the audience) are thrown off balance through games and discussions brought together to determine who is the best choice for the role.
I’m not going to lie, I really need to see this film a couple more times before I can fully process the film. Sent to me in the middle of three other festivals, the person handling the PR used some magic words (heady, complex, a lot going on) to get me to say yes to seeing the film, but leaving out the part where I would have to really see the film multiple times to truly grasp all that is going on in it. This maybe the densest film I’ve seen this year, maybe the densest in three or four years.
Nominally a look at Mer-Khamis’ life the film quickly escalates in to questions of how we see the world and each other, what is basic humanity, war, acting, performance, how we should live…and about four dozen other things. There is a lot of meat here, and while some themes may seem to over lap Dahan’s script makes it clear that there is more to each idea than just the overlap.
When the film was done I was glad I wasn’t seeing the film at the Stony Brook Film Festival screening because odds are I would have been so lost in my thoughts I’d probably end up driving off the road.
What a trip.
If you want a film that is going to haunt you I highly recommend YES REPEAT NO