Tale of Love and Darkness, A: Directing Debut of Oscar-Winning Actress Natalie Portman

a_tale_of_love_and_darkness_posterThe talented actress and Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan), makes an honorable, if not distinguished directing debut with A Tale of Love and Darkness, based on the celebrated book by Amos Oz, one of Israel’s most astute writers.

Like many subjective memoirs, Tale of Love and Darkness represents a major challenge when making a transition from the printed page to the big screen. This is especially the case of Oz’s literary source, which is painfully tough and full of astute personal and political observations, which are not easily transferable from one medium to another.

A Tale of Love and Darkness was a passion project for Portman, who optioned the rights to the book more than eight years ago. The Israeli-born actress met and got to know well the lauded writer, then 76.

Growing up in Jerusalem in the years before Israeli statehood (in 1948), Amos (Amir Tessler) was raised by Arieh, his academic father and Fania (Natalie Portman), his dreamy, imaginative mother. They were one of many Jewish families who moved to Palestine from Europe during the 1930s and 1940s to escape persecution.

Arieh was cautiously hopeful for the future but Fania wanted much more. The terror of the war and running from home had been followed by the tedium of everyday life, which weighed heavily on Fania’s spirit.  The film chronicles Fania’s gradual descent into depression and perhaps even madness.

Unhappy in her marriage and intellectually stifled, she begins to drift into her own dreamy (and surreal) world by making p stories of adventures (like treks across the desert) whose main purpose was to cheer herself up and also entertain her young (only ten) sensitive son Amos. 

a_tale_of_love_and_darkness_8_portmanMother and son establish a special bond.  He became so enraptured when she read him poetry and explained about words and language that this heritage would become influential on his writing for the rest of his life.

When independence didn’t bring the renewed sense of life that Fania had hoped for, she began to slip into solitude and sadness. Unable to help her, Amos was forced to say an untimely good-bye.  His mother committed suicide when he was 12 years old.

Witnessing the pivotal event of the birth of the State of Israel, Amos had to come to terms with his own new beginning.

Ram Bergman and David Mandil produced the film, which was shot in Jerusalem.

Focus World has acquired U.S. rights to Portman’s feature directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness.

The film, which made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015, was sold by CAA.  The distributor will open the movie in a platform theatrical release in late August.

The film was considered a tough sell, given its heavy subject and that it is in Hebrew, but it still courted major interest from art house distributors due to Portman’s star power and the source material.

a_tale_of_love_and_darkness_7_portmanA Tale of Love and Darkness has been my passion for almost a decade now since I read Amos Oz’s masterful book and knew I wanted to adapt it into a film,” said Portman. “I’m so proud, and feel so lucky, that the film we made will be distributed by Focus World. It is a great honor to have their brand of thoughtful distribution delivering the film into the world.”