SOLACE *Movie Review*

SOLACE is the story of FBI Agent Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who asks his friend and former colleague John (Anthony Hopkins) for help in solving a series of bizarre murders with the use of his psychic abilities.  They soon realize they’re on the hunt for Charles (Colin Farrell), another psychic, who may have abilities more powerful than John’s own.  The movie also stars Abbie Cornish.

The overarching theme in SOLACE, as evidenced by the title itself, is comfort: who needs it, who gets it and who gives it.  Also, what does it mean to provide comfort to someone and how can that action mean different things?  The point of the movie, though, is for a bit of self reflection since sometimes it’s possible to gain more from the act of comforting than the recipient does.

The cinematography is really interesting in SOLACE as well. Not only are there a lot of unusual shots, but mirrored reflections are frequently used.  In traditional film analysis, when you see a character’s reflection in something it’s supposed to symbolize another side, either a piece of themselves that they might be hiding from the other characters or even from themselves.  Pay attention to the characters who wind up in mirrors or on reflected surfaces the most.

This idea of reflection and having another side is further emphasized in two other ways.  First, watch when Joe wears glasses and when he doesn’t.  Glasses, similar to a reflection, generally show that a character either has something to hide so they are like a disguise—think of Clark Kent and Superman.

For more about glasses and how religion is employed in SOLACE, take a look below:

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

“We” Judaism

NOW THAT THE HIGH HOLY days are over, we can begin to appreciate how the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington may alter American Jewish life.

Like the rest of America we are stunned. Grieving. Angry. Afraid.

The enormity of loss cast a dark spiritual shadow across the holiest days of our calendar. History may record that in this catastrophe, American Jews are finding a new solace in community, bending the wounded self into the arms of the whole. We have come to a juncture; the end of "Me" Judaism and the return, however temporarily, to the Judaism of "We."

The synagogue crowds were large as always, solemn as always, on the days of reflection. But the way we crowded in, huddling together, grasping each others’ hands for psychic comfort and hope, was distinct, abiding, old-fashioned yet new.

You could see it in the extended hugs, and the extended tears, and the extended silence. We were like survivors of a shipwreck, clinging to each other. In my synagogue in Malibu, Rabbi Judith HaLevy brought us to a full 10 minutes in silence at each prayer service. Being together in stillness calmed the beast of revenge, and gave shape to grief, a name to fear.

I kept thinking of my grandfather and what it might have been like to worship with him at the turbulent turn of the last century. Like the immigrants who grasped hard to community to steady them after the rocky Atlantic crossing, we too are finding in the group, and in each other, a firming grip against hard times.

Grandpa had something I rarely experienced before last week: "Kahal," community, not a pool and a basketball court, but a common purpose. My prayer book constantly reminded me, we pray for Jews and for "all who live in the world." Kahal gives direction to individual efforts. It transforms "Me" into "We."

Baby Boomers have been notoriously anti-community, challenging its voracious appeals for money, its bureaucracy and cliquishness. Yet as Baby Boomers and their children came back to Judaism, we had our own rapacious needs. We regarded the synagogue and the Jewish community as service providers for our own private demands. We needed daycare, yoga classes, spiritual uplift. And we got them.

These programs, and I for one participated in them all, made the community a much livelier, contemporary place. But there’s little doubt that they reversed the order of the Jewish universe.

The community revolved around the individual, rather than vice versa, which is, as Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch would put it, how God intended Jewish life to be.

It’s amazing how fast the roles reversed in these past weeks. My puny problems and desires disappeared when those planes filled with innocent civilians crashed into the New York skyline. Death does not discriminate between the mighty and the weak, the rich and the poor, listeners to NPR and Rush Limbaugh.

Last week, we kept telling ourselves how lucky we are.

Lucky to be together.

Lucky to be alive.

Lucky to be Americans. Lucky to be Jews, with a set of rituals that gave us a tangible job to do.

The nameless suicide bombers left 6,000 dead in mass graves. This fact alone — the lack of bodies over which to mourn — was tragically, obscenely familiar. It created in many of us a profound spiritual disturbance, what might be called the Holocaust effect.

We were there to say "Kaddish" for the 6,000, as we have mourned the 6 million. Lucky to feel useful.

I read the confessional prayers and noticed, as if for the first time, that they are written in the plural: "We have sinned. We have dealt falsely."

Not me. We.

The reliance on the group, which once felt so stultifying, denying of my very originality, now seemed in fine balance. I must start with myself to bring peace to the world. But it will be easier if we join together.

This week I could feel the shift, the turning of the axis.

I am not the center upon which the community revolves, as Copernicus would have it. I have a community, and at the very least, we revolve around each other.

How long will this other-directedness last? If aggression against our nation persists, perhaps indefinitely. We will rebuild, perhaps, our programs of social action and international response. We will move beyond anger into justice. Beyond "Me" into "We."

In hard times, spiritual needs get redefined. Community will be one of them.

Words of Solace

Rabbis in the L.A. area responded to the tragedies in New York and Washington D.C., by making common cause with Israel and finding lessons from Jewish history.

No retreat
by Harold M. Schulweis

From the American Jewish community perspective, this week’s terrorism creates at least two challenges.

First, we cannot think that the tragic bombing on American soil is a response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, for in that case, Israel becomes the scapegoat to the bombing.

We heard this too often in the media on the day of the bombing. On ABC, Peter Jennings explained that this happened because the United States is a strong ally of Israel. If you accept that, then the culprit is Israel, since without Israel there would be peace.

But we know this is not true. What’s being challenged by terrorism is Western civilization, with its ideals of democracy, individualism and freedom.

The targets of those who bombed the USS Cole and the Pentagon are not Israel. The mass media likes to localize and personalize, which is why the conflict is always explained as being part of the Middle East. We must resist this idea. The forces at work today are truly anti-democratic, and we must say so.

Second, we, of all people, cannot scapegoat the entire Muslim community, nor make an enemy of a million Muslims. The basic question is: What can faith do to transcend the divisiveness of the political partisanship of our day?

Judaism is one religion among the world’s great religions, and we Jews have an obligation to know the other great religions, most of which we’ve spawned. In October, my synagogue is inviting Dr. Nazir Khaja, who will speak on the Koran and other basic tenets of the Muslim faith. Frankly, it’s brave of him to come, to discuss his religion in a synagogue.

Jews and Muslims have had a wonderful golden period. Our leaders wrote in Arabic, notably Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed.” The main point here is that there is a way out of even the most intractable struggle, if you do your part. There is no alternative but a constant effort to win people over. If you don’t believe in the possibility of dialogue, you are condemned to one end: war.

Harold M. Schulweis is spiritual leader of ValleyBeth Shalom in Encino.

America Joins Israel’s Nightmare
by Steven Z. Leder

Welcome to our nightmare, America! Welcome to terror that strikes the most sacred symbols of all that you believe in. Welcome to impotence — your planes grounded, markets shut down, the enemy dancing in the streets of Palestine as the call goes out from hospitals for blood. Welcome to not knowing if people you love are alive. Welcome to shock, anger, sadness, helplessness, orphaned children and scattered body parts. We Jews have been there a long time — thousands of years, really. Our nightmare’s most recent name is Intifada II. There have been others. Kishnev. Munich. Entebbe. Kristallnacht. Now, sadly, you have joined us with your own Day of Broken Glass and shattered lives.

This morning, Americans were stripped bare and brutalized. This morning, we grew up in ways both heartbreaking and inevitable. Will this cruelty reveal our capacity for reaching out? Will Americans who thought so little of Israel and her pain find greater sympathy in their hearts as on CNN they watch the next Palestinian suicide bomber’s carnage? Will the hundreds of ethnic minorities who live in Manhattan, like so many ants in a hill, see Israel’s plight as their own plight? Will the good people of the world, of which there are many, finally watch out for each other, care about each other, and protect each other? I hope so. Because then the terrorists will have failed. In tearing us apart, they will merely have brought us closer together.

Steven Z. Leder is associate rabbi of WilshireBoulevard Temple.

What the Past Teaches
by Yosef Kanefsky

So many of us are struggling to obtain some kind of perspective on the surreal events of Tuesday morning. How can we get our minds around a literally unbelievable event — one that we never imagined possible, and which represents the most dramatic triumph of evil that we have seen in a long time?

In this search, Jewish history is an important ally. I officiated at a bris at 8 that morning. In searching for words with which to place this celebration in the context of the still unfolding events on the East Coast, I found myself reaching into Jewish history. We Jews are not strangers to the unbelievable and the calamitous. We have looked on with disbelief at destruction of our holy places and, repeatedly, at the destruction of entire, innocent Jewish populations. The book of “Psalms” is filled with poems of sheer disbelief. Yet, never have we given up our commitment to bris. In the very midst of the events that we simply could not understand or explain, we intuitively knew that this was no time to suspend our commitment to the God of Abraham.

God had placed upon Abraham’s shoulders the responsibility to be a source of blessing for the world, and if anything, the hellish events around us only demanded an even more tenacious commitment to our covenant with God.

The perspective that we can obtain, then, is not one that can explain or justify the slaughter of innocents. It is rather one which provides us guidance as to what we are called upon to do now.

Kanefsky is spiritual leader of B’nai David-Judea inLos Angeles.

The Fragility of Life
by Steven Carr Reuben

I was startled out of my sleep at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday with a phone call from my daughter, who is living half a mile from the World Trade Center in New York.

“Oh my God!” she cried into the phone, “I’ve just witnessed the most horrible scene of my life!” With those few words, she seems to have captured the dread and horror that we all have felt ever since.

All Americans are in shock and numb, feeling more vulnerable to the blind hatred and fanaticism of terrorist than ever before in our history. We gasp in disbelief at the human carnage of thousands of innocent lives that can vanish in an instant of unleashed evil. The world, as we know it, has changed forever, and our souls lie burdened with doubt and grief.

Once again we know to the core how fragile life is, how unpredictable life is, how we are all linked by the common bonds of human frailty, fear, and longing for a better, safer world.

“The entire world is a very narrow bridge,” wrote Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, “and the essential thing above all is not to fear.”

Now is the time we need each other’s strength, each other’s courage, each other’s love.

We pray for the victims and their families, for the strength and resolve of our nation, and for the wisdom of our country’s leaders. These High Holy Days, every synagogue and every Jew will be looking for messages of hope amid fear, comfort amid grief, faith amid pain.

Steven Carr Reuben is rabbi of Kehillat IsraelReconstructionist Congregation in the Pacific Palisades, and president of theBoard of Rabbis of Southern California.

With Broken Hearts
by David Wolpe

Tuesday was a day of stunning calamity. Our tradition teaches us both how to deeply mourn, and how not to despair.

There is a part of us that wants the world to understand that this is the war that has been fought against the Jewish State. We always understood that underneath it was a war against not simply the state, but the freedom and faith that our tradition represents. The most important thing to say is that our hearts are broken, and we pray to God to give rest to the souls of those who have died, and comfort to those who are grieving. But we must also say that the taking of innocent human life for political ends will destroy this fragile garden we have been given. In the name of faith we must save, not kill. Those who do otherwise do not honor God, but rather imperil creation. May God bring justice upon those who have plotted murder and abetted slaughter. May God grant wisdom to those who hate, and turn their bitterness to love. And may God bless America.

David Wolpe is rabbi of Sinai Temple inWestwood.

Finding Comfort and Faith
by Laura Geller

One of my congregants called today to say how grateful she was that the High Holy Days are so close. At a time like this, she told me, when the world seems so out of control, it is a blessing to be part of a large and supportive community. And it is an even more powerful blessing to be part of a tradition that has walked in the valley of the shadow of death before, and has never lost its faith.

The magnitude of the terrorist attacks and the enormous tragedy of the human lives that have been lost does challenge our faith — in the security and intelligence systems of our government, in the belief that civilized people don’t attack innocent civilians, and in the notion that we are safe from terrorism in America. This act of evil must be condemned by all people of faith in the most unequivocal of terms.

As Jews who care about Israel, we now know firsthand what our Israeli friends have endured for a long time: the randomness of terror and the awareness of how difficult it is to find the appropriate response. We hope that Americans and the American government will understand more fully the pressures that Israel has faced and be more helpful in responding to Israel’s need for peace.

As Jews who have suffered discrimination, we hope that all Americans will be careful not to judge an entire group of people by the actions of some. And as human beings who have suffered the deaths of people we love, our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. We pray they find comfort and faith.

Laura Geller is spiritual leader of Temple Emanuelof Beverly Hills.

PhotographyImages from the Territory of Belief

Top, “Encampent in the Wilderness of Paran, Sinai,” circa 1875.Above, “Moses’ Well, Jebel Musa,” 1868-69. Below “Arab Man inProfile,” from the 1850s. Photos from “Revealing the Holy Land,”1997.


In the company of his friend, fellow world traveler andphotographer Maxime du Camp, French novelist Gustave Flaubert visitedJerusalem in 1850. The urbane and sophisticated Flaubert wasdecidedly unimpressed with this crumbling backwater of the OttomanEmpire: “Jerusalem stands as a fortress; here the old religionssilent rot away. One treads on dung; ruins surround you wherever youreyes wander — a very sad and sorry picture.”

That same year, a Rev. George Wilson Bridges also made his way tothe Holy City. An English cleric and an amateur photographer, Bridgesand his young son traveled through Palestine as part of a seven-yearjourney around the Mediterranean and the East. Bridges undertook thejourney as a form of solace: He had just buried his wife and daughterin Jamaica — victims of a tropical fever they contracted while thereverend was there doing missionary work. Steeped as he was in griefand religious conviction, Bridges found that Jerusalem’s atmosphereof melancholia and desolation suited him. “What sight,” he observedafter witnessing Jews praying at the Western Wall, “even in thiswondrous city, so touching, so impressive as this — Jews mourningthe ruins of Jerusalem….”

These two travelers — one a littérateur seeking new imagesand impressions for his work and the other an emotionally strickenChristian — see the same patch of stony land in dramaticallydifferent contexts. As is vividly illustrated in a stunning new book,”Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine,”men such as Flaubert and Bridges were part of a larger stream ofdisparate travelers who trekked to 19th-century Palestine.

From the moment an image could be fixed, photographers beganjourneying to Jerusalem to capture images from the ancient holy city.Armed with newly invented equipment and a host of differingmotivations, patrons and agendas, they all saw — through theircamera lenses — what they wanted to see. Collected here (and soon tobe on display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art), these remarkablepictures tell almost as much about Western attitudes toward the “HolyLand” as they do about the hardscrabble country itself. NitzaRosovsky’s informative essay further illuminates the historicalcontext of these images.

Occupying the lion’s share of the book are a series of photographsby Sgt. James McDonald, a member of England’s Royal Engineers. Takenduring the engineer corps’ meticulous land surveys of Jerusalem andthe Sinai, McDonald’s pictures reveal an expertise with earlyprocesses of photography. They also capture 19th-century Palestine’ssun-drenched, desolate beauty and hint at England’s imperialisticdesigns on it.

Land surveyorsweren’t the only ones drawn to Palestine. Westerners in general,whether they were armchair travelers or early tourists, werefascinated with the mysterious Holy Land, which, until the mid-19thcentury, had only been represented by religious Renaissance art,illustration and sentimental contemporary painting. The demand forphotographic images of Palestine gave rise to several prominentcommercial photographers, such as Frenchman Felix Bonfils andEnglishman Frank Mason Good. Occupied with a different agenda thanMcDonald, they produced popular pictures for an eager, paying public.Those early photos stimulated travel and pilgrimages to the area. Asbusiness flourished, entire studios were devoted to producingphotographs of biblical sites (accompanied by verses of scripture)and portraits of romanticized Middle Eastern “types.” Those images –of picturesque tents under palm trees and exotically costumed locals– are also included here.

“Revealing the Holy Land” captures the point where the historiesof picture-taking, Palestine, and the West’s Middle East policyintersect and interact. As such, it’s not only a beautiful book ofphotography but also an important document. The particular set ofculture clashes and competing interests that had just begun to takeshape in mid-19th-century Palestine continue to reverberate in Israelto this day — unresolved and as seemingly fixed as an oldphotograph.

“Revealing the Holy Land” (University of California Press, $25paper/$60 cloth) is available at bookstores. The exhibit goes ondisplay at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from Jan. 29 through March29.