Saturday, April 18, 2009

[SIFF09] The Beetle (Hachipusheet)

This is Definitely Faster

I guess you'd never know how much distance one's nostalgia and sentimentalism will take you. It could be bordering on obsession, but for filmmaker Yishai Orian, his love for his banged up, 40 year old Volkswagon Beetle knows no bounds, and this film is perhaps testament toward that love. Unhappy of course is his wife Eliraz, being driven around in a heap of junk on the verge of breaking down ever so often, and more worried about the baby on the way, hoping that Yishai would place priority on family and safety.

Alas it seemed that such hope gets thrown out the window when Yishai decides to embark on a road trip to neighbouring Arab neighbour Jordan, based on rumours that it would logically be cheaper to repair his car there, and given the garage engineers also being more willing to do so after being turned down by so many on his home soil. And to add to the dilemma, he has to decide whether to use his savings to repair his Beetle, or to invest it on a high-tech pram. No guesses which he will decide, and whether the wifey is pleased with his final decision, which I think is how most domestic disagreement will come about – with the man wanting to invest in his hobby and his other half thinking that he's not placing his priorities in life right.

For those who has little knowledge on the not too subtle beginnings of the Beetle, it actually had some Nazi Germany roots when Adolf Hitler commissioned it as a cost-effective model for mass production. Hence the vehicle is born, and little would anyone realize that Israel would be more than willing to import a vehicle with such a beginning. But it did, and so we learn little anecdotes from past owners that Yishai managed to track down, for them to share memorable stories about their respective time with the vehicle that he's driving around now. Some of these are incredible, unbelievable even, but they did happen, and it only goes to show how much history can be packed into something that's almost half a century old.

The road trip to Jordan opened up more memorable stories to tell, emphasizing that it's indeed a world without strangers, especially when it's out of compassion that one helps out a complete stranger from the other side of the border. While it's still a financial transaction, I think one appreciates the help that one had obtained, and from there build on some genuine friendships which extended even after the bill had been presented. Talk about having after a fine sales service! And for Yishal's own personal memoirs, having time spent with Salam, a Jordanian child, also reinforced his beliefs about fatherhood and helped to allay some fears of real adulthood, and responsibility toward his own child in time to come.

It's a delightful comedic documentary that doesn't try too hard to bring on the laughs. It's quite an honest piece of work in balancing one's primary loves in life, for Yishai's case the affection for his vehicle and that feeling of being responsible for those past productive years of his Beetle, having seen the smiles worn by its ex-owners, and that of his current family. Let's hope that seriously is some more significant mileage left in that piece of German engineering!

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