Actors: Israeli Ron Ninio’s Chronicle of Performers’ Dreams and Anxieties

A group of young, optimistic actors are at the center of the Israeli film Actors, a dramatic exploration of the harsh life in the theater. Though grounded in contemporary Israeli society, the picture doesn’t stress sufficiently enough the unique artistic and political problems faced by local thespians, which makes its concerns more universal but also overly familiar from numerous American movies about showbiz.

As written by Hillel Mitelpunkt, a prominent Israeli playwright, Actors charts a territory that has been examined in many movies, namely the gap between the expectations of idealistic actors and their disillusionment with the cruel, unglamorous reality, after graduation from school.

The psychological drama, which lacks humor, interweaves stories about the professional and personal struggles of half a dozen characters as they strive to establish themselves as actors.

Tale suffers from having too many characters facing too many problems–in both the occupational and emotional arenas. Central figure is Noam (Rami Heuberger), a tough, rather pretentious director, who’s insensitive to the needs of his g.f. Eva (Yael Hadar), an aspiring actress who doesn’t get any encouragement from him. A product of conservative background, Eva also doesn’t enjoy any support from her religious father.

Rehearsing the play of a novice, Noam works with a veteran actor, Shpigel (Shmuel Segal) and two neophytes, Shai (Aki Avni), a selfish actor mostly interested in increasing the size of his role, and Rona (Tali Atzmon), a single mother who has to juggle a demanding career with domestic duties. Late for rehearsals, due to her baby’s sickness, she’s reproached by helmer, and back at home, she’s denied sympathy from her mother, who helps raising her boy but fails to understand her ambition.

Another story involves an intergenerational conflict between a veteran pro (Itzhak Hizkiah), who has tenure in one of the leading troupes, and his struggling son, Yoav (Yoav Hait). Rounding out the cast is an attractive woman (Ayala Asherov), who teaches drama at school and is conflicted in an adulterous affair with a married man from a kibbutz.

Helmer Ron Ninio, who is a graduate of the NYU Film School, shows talent for establishing the right mood, but the episodic material is broken into so many brief scenes that it’s hard to get involved in any of the personal ordeals. This strategy also prevents the amiable ensemble from developing interesting or engaging portraits.

Despite the fact that intermittently there’s a discussion of indigenous issues, such as the need for a political theater in Israel, ultimately the picture’s issues become routinely familiar.

This is especially so in a long audition scene, in which a director gets an emotionally effective reading from Eva by irritating her, using his version of Stanislavsky and Method Acting.

Avi Mussel’s lensing and Miki Zachar’s art direction accentuate the nasty, often unpleasant texture of the entire film.