Posted by: operatheaterink | May 30, 2017

Film Review: ‘The Quarrel,’ May 30, 2017

‘The Quarrel’ Film Remains Pertinent
and Thought-Evoking after Twenty Years.

DAVID BRANDES (Screenplay)
CHAIM GRADE (Original Short Story)
1991/’92 FILM, SEEN ON DVD MAY 24, 2017

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

“The Quarrel,” a 1991 film produced with care and sensitivity, is still pertinent today. Available on DVD, it remains a worthwhile vehicle for educational institutions and congregations to utilize for debates on a variety of issues facing the Jewish community.

I was made aware of the film by my neighbor in 2017. After seeing the film’s website, I decided to test my opinions since I have written a book about my parents’ journey to America during the Holocaust. Merely ninety minutes long, the film focuses on two friends (Chaim, a non-religious writer and poet; and Hersh, an Orthodox rabbi) who separate before the Holocaust after disagreeing on the role of God in their lives. Now, many years later in 1948, they meet by chance in a park in Montreal, Canada, or almost by fate, where they reminisce and discuss their present and past lives in Poland, and how being Holocaust survivors has influenced their current views.

The Canadian film is clearly focused for the Jewish community. Even the secular Chaim Kovler is clearly Jewish, simply doesn’t believe that God plays a role in people’s decisions and that they can work and create without religious involvement. Rabbi Hersh Rasseyner believes the opposite.

What makes this film so interesting is that this premise has branches that bring a myriad of topics to light for verbal discourse.

One is morality. The rabbi believes that man is not born noble and good. God and religion are what make man moral, he believes. Chaim, on the other hand, believes that humans are inherently good and must and do help each other.

The two men spend time together in the park, through sun and rain, talking about their roles in the fate of their families, their losses and guilts, and the Holocaust’s toll on their lives. They forgive each other, then stake out their claims.

A low-budget film, the few settings are cinematically artistic and fine; the costuming, appropriate in period and style; and the music and score interspersed with care. The actors — R. H. Thomson (Chaim) and Saul Rubinek (Hersh) — excel at their craft and turn the words into gems. The discourse between the two men is at times as if they are lecturing, but these actors often turn the dialogue into poetry. Therein lies the question as to whether or not the film is for a wide audience or is simply an excellent educational film for the Jewish community. In reality, people of all faiths can probably debate about the answers to the questions brought forth as they pertain to their own religions.

My favorite part is toward the end when the two men are dancing in a most creative fashion. This shows the sensitivity of the film’s makers. Even the spectators’ applause seems fitting, although somewhat jolting in execution. The ensuing story, although valuable but poorly positioned, ruins the moment for me.

The two men leave the park and each other, apparently without talk of reuniting again. The film shows their eternal bond toward each other and their roots in Jewish tradition. Yet it also shows that they have forged different paths, and although bonded for life with love for one another, life’s experiences have made them who they are, and they must continue to journey with their beliefs in tact. Ripe for discussion, I was hoping these men would delight in their reunion and vow to remain close.

A smorgasbord of ideas — one needs to see the film more than once to tune in, listen and digest. Still, not knowing its success-level in 1992, “The Quarrel” seems too focused on these two men often lecturing to each other to be embraced in general release by a wider youthful audience; yet it is far too eloquent and accomplished to be merely an educational film. It is a marvelous film for those who have the interest and want to debate on the topics brought forth. I recommend “The Quarrel” to them, and I congratulate the actors on their fine delivery.

Screenplay: David Brandes
Director: Eli Cohen
Produced by David Brandes, Kim Todd
Associate Producer: Joseph Telushkin
Executive Producers: Peter Sussman, Paul Bronfman, Lindsay Law
Principal Actors: R.H. Thomson, Saul Rubinek
Cinematography: John Berrie
Music: William Goldstein
Editing: Havelock Gradidge
Costumes: Francois Barbeau
Released in Canada, 1991; USA, 1992

DVD available at ( ) and on Amazon.

An American Playhouse Theatrical Films, Atlantis Releasing and Apple & Honey Film Corp. presentation in association with Comweb Productions Inc., The Ontario Film Development Corporation and Super Ecran. An Atlantis Films Limited and Apple & Honey Productions production. DVD: Fox Lorber and Winstar TV & Video.

Illustration: Photo of DVD front taken by Carol Jean Delmar.