“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.” In this poetic portrait of a turn-of-the-century Hasidic Ukrainian shtetl, 10-year-old Shimek and Buzya share a dreamlike vision of life as a series of small revelations. Shimek tells his darling Buzya fairy tales of the faraway, imprisoned Tsarevna, as their fantasies of inhabiting a larger world beyond the shtetl blend with the first stirrings of young love, experienced as an ardent, low-burning flame. An inspired adaptation of the iconic stories from Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman (which also served as the source material for Fiddler on the Roof), a sense of wonder vibrates through Eva Neymann’s artfully composed images of Hasidic village life. Expressive tableaux and quotations of Dutch Golden Age painting (particularly Vermeer) add a sublime vitality to this new telling of the old, familiar stories, crafting an elegiac and unforgettably sumptuous viewing experience. In a brilliant touch, the film’s soundtrack is comprised entirely of vinyl recordings by Jewish artists ranging from Al Jolson to Fritz Kreisler, lending a commensurate richness and warmth to the soundscape. Song of Songs was awarded Best Picture at the Odessa International Film Festival.
—Tien-Tien L. Jong