Interviewed by Asher Tlal

Translated by: Tal Hara

Greetings Joelle, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.

I think very highly of all the films you have edited. We could actually speak about each of them, but I’d like this interview to focus on “Black Notebooks”, which in my opinion – saying it not as a specialist on Israeli film but as a person who has seen many Israeli films and even made some – is one of Israeli film’s greatest masterpieces. It is an amazing work the span of which is awesome. Its scale is moving, and it is made in an extraordinary way. Its film quality is most impressive and is significant far beyond the mere scope of cinema. You edited several films with Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz and your acquaintance has been long-lasting. Looking at the credits at the end of the film and seeing the hundreds of hours of rushes and origins of the various materials that were edited – some of them edited in the past in Ronit’s and Shlomi’s trilogy – we realize what a Gargantuan process it was to edit this film. I was glad to see your name appear at the beginning of the film as co-scriptwriter – it seems so natural. No doubt far more comprehensive work is involved here than merely at the editing table. Please share with us the history of “Black Notebooks”.

Ronit, Shlomi and I worked together on all the films they made over a decade. I had the pleasure and the privilege of working with them on all three films – the trilogy – as well as other works along the way, with Ronit or with Shlomi separately. Frankly and gladly, I can say they adopted me as their house editor. I had felt somewhat of an outsider. I was born in Belgium, came to Israel at 18, didn’t speak the language – to this day I have a heavy accent, I feel there is something quite European in me that I probably don’t really want to be rid of. I think that in my talks with them we found a common denominator: The childhood with immigrant parents, our love of cinema. When I spoke with Ronit and Shlomi about films, we found many similarities. Ronit loved French and Japanese films. In spite of our differing background, we found things in common such as the ability to apply an outsider’s gaze looking in.

The first time we worked together, I was living on a Greek island. Ronit and Shlomi came to me one day with the film To Take a Wife (2004) and we dived into the work. It was a very personal, intimate film of theirs, their memories of home.

There was something special about my not being from Israel. I don’t judge this family the way your average Israeli does, and am not familiar with the inside of the Moroccan home. I spoke a lot about the fact that their home tongue was a mixture of Hebrew, French and Moroccan Arabic. We also spoke French, Flemish and Yiddish at home. I grew up in Antwerp, and there was that mix. There was the inside of home which was a kind of separate social cell, sometimes dissonant with the outside. With the years, I think something very strong and tight happened between their vision, how they like their cinema, what they try to do and tell, and the freedom they let me have as their editor. They not only gave me this freedom, they let themselves have this possibility, to be free of rules. Sometimes you think you must belong to the general line of realism – there was a lot of realism in Israeli film in those years. Suddenly there was room to try other things.

While editing Black Notebooks I recall talking about dreams, seeing them in feature film – they help deepen one’s understanding of the characters, but in documentary film you hardly see dreams, for this is not reality, it is something that contradicts many trends in documentary film. In To Take a Wife there is this dream sequence – we see Ronit, or rather Viviane, driving a car, dreaming about something and knowing she’ll never get to it, but she’s dreaming, she drives and looks out the window, not really ahead. All these things were meaningful to me: the possibility to get away from where you were born, be free of that place. I also had to undergo such a process with my own family and the place from which I had come. This dream is repeated in Black Notebooks (2021), in the first part.

We thought of allowing Miriam, meaning Viviane, a place to dream again – not the car, we had already done that, but Paris which is in fact the same thing. It’s the desire to be a free, modern woman without the harsh ties she experiences at home.

I think that at the end of the day, many things that happened to us while working on the trilogy came back differently in our work on Black Notebooks. That was the last film that I knew I was doing with Ronit. Although she was not in the room, she was very present. Very much so. I felt I was responsible for making a film she would like. Although she was not there, I knew what she was looking for. From our decade of working together I knew her taste and what needs to be central. This responsibility was rather heavy to begin with. Especially when I received hundreds of hours of raw material. Life and the films were mixed on Shlomi’s disks, and when he came and suggested making the, film I felt I didn’t know what to do with that. Ronit passed away not so long ago, it was a year and a half or two after she died, that was still fresh – especially for Shlomi who was so close to her and worked with her in such proximity. Suddenly instead of being a trio in the editing room, we were a duo, but we were still a trio too, with a phantom, with her ghost.

Yes, I felt her spirit was in the room, and of course in the film. A film that happens somehow in two kinds of time, in the present and in the future. Meaning that although everything had already happened, somehow what happened becomes the present and the future is the thought that we already know what had happened to her. When we watch the film, we are actually in the future. We see it, knowing she is no longer with us, and that is somewhat the process I underwent in the editing room. Editing was constantly done with the shadow of a person who was no longer with us. Psychologically I think this was one of the things that made me sense that tremendous responsibility, and we slowly began to make references that do not originate in the classical world of documentary film. In other words, we do not try to tell a linear story but rather one of a person who no longer lives, a love story of a brother and sister who dared to reach areas that were even bolder in this respect, comparing this love to the love of cinema. These are the main layers that guided us. Love of cinema as far as I am concerned was the line that gave me many ideas of going further with the story, perhaps because I had a hard time coping with Ronit’s physical absence. I had an easier time focusing on something that was more plastic and working with the material, and less to think about it.

As for the work process, I received all the hours that were filmed and a general script with ideas that remained until the end. As you say, there is renewed writing here, especially since I had to watch all the material and select things that would support the subjects we wished to handle.

How many hours of material were there?

Over 400 hours. From different sources, even i-phone. Lots of it, because Shlomi had been filming obsessively for 20 years, and any i-phone he had was filled with videos. For all his travels, everything related to Paris, all the intimate moments he wished to document – he used his cell phone. There were very specific moments when he brought a larger camera, and it got all mixed. We had VHS cassettes, because all the rushes of To Take a Wife had disappeared.  We only had the VHS, and not of the entire film, only half or one-third of the camera work. We found them and were glad, and used the materials that were finished up on the editing room floor. For example, the conversation between the father and son on the bus. This is a conversation present in the film (To Take a Wife) that was being edited for a long time and then was discarded at some point. Suddenly discovering this beautiful conversation and using it to deepen Eli’s character – was very moving. After To Take a Wife, I was asked, “Who is this man?” He wasn’t understood, and there is actually a real person behind Eli’s film character. It was moving to restore materials that had been taken a decade ago and discarded for certain reasons, but could be right for another time. It was a beautiful moment to discover that this conversation was right for Black Notebooks, and it also provided a very nice context for the father’s dream, for he had a dream too, not just the mother.

The dream was to study abroad.

Yes, the dream was to study and leave his place, develop. And that didn’t happen. I mean, suddenly I realized that the two parents are in this little flat, not living the life they really wanted to live. Not just Miriam. I was very glad to work on Black Notebooks. To show the man’s side. For he is one of the four characters in real life, the others somehow rebelled and were freed. He is there alone with his religion, with the past, with the desire to preserve what had been there. It was interesting to play with these layers and find possibilities of passing from one character to another, for they are always the same. It enhances a sense of continuity, of infinity really. This idea was a real treasure for me. The moment we realized this, when this idea became clear. I could really pass from one character to another without losing the thread of thought. It was fascinating to work on this phenomenon.

Yes, it obvious in the film that Ronit, Miriam and Viviane are different embodiments of the same character. There it is clear. But with the male characters, that is more your own construction. You have wonderful montages, especially in the first film, where you beautifully connect the lives of Eli and Miriam, parents of Ronit and Shlomi, with their films. We see the origins and their love as well as the tension and difficulty – “Don’t make a film about this”, “Don’t talk about this”, “How can you film such things?” The editing is enlightening. I am sure it took time to make such connections. How did you get started?

The beginning was already written – the attempt to make a really simple connection between Viviane in the film and Miriam in reality, and begin to show that Viviane is actually a woman living in the Krayot called Miriam, and that she’s the mother of Ronit, but it’s actually her own story. The idea was to make these connections in order to show how reality and film are linked while still maintaining a huge gap. There are also things written in the trilogy that are not real. Reality is much more complicated than film because life is more complex, but also because film has already become a part of life. This complexity, in my view, is Miriam’s story, or the story we decided to tell about her. Thus all the direct connections between image and reality are the basis for understanding the meaning, or as Shlomi calls it, the user’s guide…

Since we decided to make a film that speaks a different language, we felt it needed to first be constructed as a kind of user’s guide, showing the way we are supposed to grasp all these layers. Then there was a lot of work, putting this guide together right. That’s the first episode of the series, and it became the beginning of the film. This is how we clarified that we would pass from one scene to the other without using the usual rules of narrative. Seeing the parents alive a quarrel dynamic and then boom – we see that in cinema. The moment we see them there, we get something that I find really interesting – we the spectators now know who these people are in real life, and the image becomes much more complex because we knew them personally.  We could take things from life and add other things from film and somehow, the actors are almost not seen acting but rather mixing life and film. It turns into a kind of duplication, very deep and painful. It was always a part of Ronit’s story. She is present in the film and present in life, and doesn’t manage to be in life completely without film – there’s a kind of counter-movement. We see this especially when she tries to get back to work as a mother of two children, her difficulty parting from the children, maintaining a family balance while still keeping her aspirations as an artist. As soon as you get that this is the film father, that’s the film mother, and who they are in real life – that’s Black Notebooks. A kind of restitution.

That’s true, and so beautiful, what you say. But now that you’re talking, many things slip out between the lines, or between the images. First of all this huge love between mother and daughter, between brother and sister, between the brother and his mother when he films her – “I’m not wearing makeup and he’s filming me…” The spectator sees the beauty which Shlomi sees in her. A good-looking and simple woman, not wearing makeup, and she talks. But since Ronit got sick, the mother cannot bear it any more. All these levels of love between family members are there, and the deep ties they share.

It is important to mention another protagonist in the film – the music. When in the editing process did music come in?

Bernard Herrmann’s music was not there at first, there’s another part which I thought told a story but not the one we wished to tell. The idea came rather early in the taxi scene, when the Berber driver follows Shlomi’s cab. It’s a scene we had from the time we began to edit. Shlomi directed it in Paris. He thought about it, wrote it, directed and filmed it.


I think it was when Ronit got ill, but I’m not sure.

The Berber, from “Black Notebooks”, first part

But for this purpose, anyway.

I think so. It already came to the editing room as a scene from the beginning and reminded me very much of the car ride in Vertigo (1958) – the man’s long drive following the woman as she enters the museum, a kind of chase of a spirit, really. Then I began to hear Bernard Herrmann’s music which was a bit familiar. We discovered many parts in it that could tell our story, for it deals with the exact same thing. A little later I found out that all the segments we chose came from four different films, written when Bernard Herrmann and his wife separated.

Do you remember which films?

Vertigo, Changing Address, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Walking Distance. They were all written after Bernard Herrmann parted from his wife. He finally experienced parting, a kind of death. There are many death motifs in his music and we felt that it could really turn Black Notebooks into a movie. We didn’t want this to be a dry documentary film about Ronit Elkabetz. Bernard Herrmann’s music suddenly made nearly every shot become cinema. It enabled the crossing over from archive material with everyday qualities into real drama…

Even low quality, right?

Yes. We said we would use every quality and not make any kind of selection of the material itself because it is our treasure. We will not begin to use only state-of-the-art cameras now. We felt that at the end of the day both VHS and DVD add something. At times we even ‘dirtied’ materials from the more sophisticated cameras in order to blend them with our other materials. We could imagine chasing death, or death chasing you in the music. It very closely approached themes that interested us and we tried to expand. This music gave us more ways to look at the picture, to have an active gaze.

No doubt this suddenly takes you out a bit, and you regard the film very emotionally.

That’s right.

But not identifying with it, more a kind of emotional observation.


At a certain distance.

This distance is what I call the present and the future. It means we are coping with our consciousness as spectators, and we can look at the screen and see the image and life moving right there before our eyes. That’s why I very much like the opening scene of Black Notebook, for me it’s the ultimate opening. I mean the beginning of the film in a movie theater, when the image tries to show itself but is blurred because the projection went wrong. The audience in the hall complains, it wants to see Viviane’s image and see the women who was Ronit. Without knowing it, the audience longs for the image of a real woman. For me this whole story really talks about film, the distance we have between the screen and our expectations.

You mean the fact that it is just a bit out of focus?

Yes. One day Shlomi filmed the screening of To Take a Wife in Paris, and there really was a technical problem at the beginning. At the time film was still used in screenings, so there was always this bit of tension before the beginning – will the projectionist know what he is doing? At that moment, something really interesting happens. The audience becomes active facing the screen, it is the kind of promise that you, the spectators, will also be active in a certain way if you go on watching in spite of the mishaps. In addition, the blurred image reminds us in a way that she is no longer with us. That this woman has already ‘faded’.

That indeed is what sometimes happens in editing, when material suddenly becomes more intelligent even than you.

That’s right.

It sometimes reaches some level beyond genius, but not your own.

Exactly. Who could have thought up such a thing, written such a thing…

Or planned it.

Yes. We had many moments of life’s genius, for this really happened in life.

And then the editor’s role is to be a kind of hunter, to know when to say “Wow! this is amazing. I am hunting and adding it to my film.”

Right. I always say I’m fishing, all the time. The stage of looking at material is critical, I think, and I take it really seriously. I try to be as alert as a fish so that if something happens, I am there to pick it out of the water. I wait for my enthusiasm as I identify material that contains elements that really touch upon the truth of this film. I was enthused when I saw the blurred projection of the raw material. It is such a charged scene, in my opinion, that I didn’t know where to place it in the film, but it definitely felt as though I had caught a big fish that day – in the process of choosing the ‘ins’ there are all sorts of fish, even small ones, like sardines. And I want to find them, too, a future place on the ‘timeline’. When I watch, I don’t know what kind of a meal I’d be making, but every day I put these fish in the basket, write what I felt at that moment, what I had found. I like to fish alone, by the way, in my own quiet moments. At the end of the day, I would compose the segment with the fish I found, and call up Shlomi. We spoke a lot, and that’s how we actually got started.

I totally accept your suggestion to call it fishing rather than hunting. Fishing is so much more precise.

Yes. When you fish you face the water. You know there are plenty of fish inside, but you don’t see them. They actually have to be coming to you, and of course you have to catch them. Catch their beauty.

Definitely. Shall we get back to the moment in “Vertigo” of which this reminded you? How did this continue?

I suggested that we place the music over the cab ride. It was like the tailor who comes and knows your body dimensions well, and brings you a suit that is perfect for you. I didn’t know how it happened. We found ourselves listening to all of Bernard Herrmann’s music. Really.


There’s much on Youtube. First, I downloaded it from Youtube to check if it worked. That was a bit tricky, because Bernard Herrmann wrote for the Hitchcock scene. If you take away the visual Hitchcock scene, the pace is still Hitchcock’s.  In fact, when you take this music which has its own inner pace related to a certain scene, and transpose it onto a different scene, suddenly your own scene gets that pace too, like a dream. The scene suddenly received the meaning we wanted it to have. This music had the pace of a taxi ride. One shot, yes? Not something I need to edit. I wondered if Herman could have actually caught the pace of life and we didn’t see it, but the moment we set the metronome to it we discover the pace is there. It really happens, especially in driving, but not only then. It happened to us many times, we put the music into the scene and it really tells the same story. As I realized it was really working, and not just in this taxi ride scene but often, I felt I was paying homage – not taking something that is forbidden, not touching anything sacred because Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann are iconic, greater than we are – this gave me more strength. There were really precise things there: the pace of life, the sadness of parting and the depth of loss. It was something that really spoke to us.

Yes, that really does it. But there is the problem of copyright. What do you do about it?

Bernard Herrmann’s family have a foundation and they agreed to give us the rights. They were very glad that the work was receiving a new life. That we regarded his music not only as that of old movies but that it could really go on living. And I do believe that music is endless. Namely, it does not have to be connected with anything specific. The problem was that we used over half of the Vertigo soundtrack. Consequently, they got scared and said no, that is too much. But they did give us the rights for other segments, and Vertigo let us have the rights to the music but not its execution. So, we recorded it with the Giv’atayim Philharmonic. Apparently, Israel happens to have a specialist on Bernard Herrmann’s music, Rafi Kadishson, and it was stunning. Then the question arose which execution we wanted: there are two of Vertigo, the old that is slower and darker, and the newer one. I used the parts that are brighter and a bit faster. I wanted the violin to have something more Spanish, Andalusian about it. But not too oriental, for Bernard Herrmann already brings a strain of Jewish influence.

Was he Jewish?

He was. I feel that the melody has something from Russia about it. I don’t know where he came from, in certain segments of the film I wanted very much to try and bring the high violin tones which are somewhat closer to Morocco. Somehow, I think it occasionally happened all by itself, one didn’t need to press it.

Were you there in person when the orchestra recorded it?

Yes, sure.

It’s amazing, I really believe in the importance of the use and integration of music in the film’s soundtrack during editing. Music is a fundamental element in the architecture of the film. It is so different from finishing to edit the film, and then having the composer come and compose the music…

That’s right.

Music is a basic ingredient in the film’s molecular structure, and that’s how I work too. In England it almost never happens. Normally it is only at the last phase that the composer comes and composes, and then either the director likes it or he fires the composer and brings in someone else. In all of my films music is already a part of the rushes. As in “Black Notebooks”, music is really a storyteller and not an illustration. At what point did the idea appear to divide the film in two, Viviane and Ronit?

I don’t know the answer to that. I think Shlomi always wanted to make a film, but we began to work on a series. At first the idea was to create ten episodes. One episode fell out because there were not enough materials, and finally we got the funding for five. Each received a name: The mother, the father, the daughter, the brother, life and death. It helped us to construct the stories. These were the larger themes, that’s how we built them. In the middle of editing the series, Shlomi comes to me one day and says, “Let’s try to make two full-length films”. It was very interesting to see how the episodes could blend, not enter each other but follow one another, and make up something deeper with all the layers we had talked about. Characters who have their alter-ego and their inspiration, their past, present and future, and even language. Indeed, we looked at the scenes and called them rooms, not scenes. We could pass freely from room to room, Shlomi calls it the construction. A kind of large structure that is Viviane that contains culture and the love of cinema, the woman, and the Mizrahi woman – namely all the main themes, their body of work, are there in Viviane. She is the house and we can pass freely from room to room.

What you are saying is wonderful. This division with the subtitles is sometimes used in European films. It is not the strict structure of episode following episode. When one enters the heading “The Father” for example, the spectator has already been with the father for about ten minutes. It’s not that we finished with the mother and now it’s the father’s turn. This gives us a different gaze inward, as it were. So the idea of rooms is very appropriate: when you are in room you sense the space of the other room, it is there. Then you move into it, not into another house. I like that very much, because at the end of the day we are speaking about cinematic space.


So ‘room’ is a wonderful distinction, I think. It expresses very correctly the feeling of a kind of architecture in Black Notebooks”. It is as though in a way we see Viviane and Ronit as reflections of the same person, like borrowing from the architecture of the ‘Twin Towers’. There are so many fascinating ideas in the film. You already mentioned the idea of ‘the Berber’, I guess he was already present in the script.

It is interesting, how this Berber raises questions. Is there really such a person? Can we have his address, or phone number? What is a Berber anyway? We had to struggle to maintain his mysterious element. Whoever does not know what a Berber means and wishes to find out can easily look for the answers.

The truth is that I knew, for I was born in Tangier, and even made a film about Berber music. In Morocco’s markets, in its culture, I witnessed the ancient Berber tradition and customs, with its many skulls and objects that all somehow say something about the future.


There is a feeling that you control the future.

Definitely something cultural. Ronit used to go to a fortune teller. It was very moving for me to find the scene where she goes to a card opener in the film Les Mains Libres. It was amazing to see that this was documented, not in her own private world. That it was documented in film, and that the voice is mine.

You recorded yourself as the card opener?

Yes. I think it caused some interesting things. Personally, I could speak with Ronit through film for the last time. My own voice harbingered the future, just as the film did. All of a sudden, I was physically involved… my own hands that edit the film and write the story together with Shlomi. We could have used someone else’s voice, and often I would ask Shlomi, “Are you sure you want my voice?” He said, “Yes, you are a part of this story”.  It’s nice, he wanted to keep my voice.

Cards, from “Black Notebooks”, first part

It was his idea, not yours.

First, because I speak French. There is a microphone in the room and we could check immediately whether the idea worked. In this case my voice stayed, and I am glad of it. Few people know it is my voice. There are real recordings that Ronit made when she would go to the fortune teller, but these are very private materials, I have never heard them.

You said that one part was taken out, and that it is an interesting story.

There is one part which I hope we manage to use some day. At some point when we were finishing up the editing of the film, we showed it to several people before the Cannes Festival and someone said there was a part missing. That is the last one, when you see Shlomi.

The brother.

The brother. Which I would say is a short and compact part, a poem written on a single page.

Yes, it is very short.

We like very much the fact that it was not a long, full notebook like the others. Sometimes you write four lines and it’s enough for a week, for you reach a certain kind of truth. I always wanted The Brother to be a part, and Shlomi wasn’t at ease with this. He didn’t what to give himself a part of his own. I was very glad about finding a solution, how to complete the quartet, for it really is a quartet, not a trio. It was moving to see the brother, namely Shlomi, grow with a camera in hand, documenting his own life and himself.

And you used very different music for it.

Right. Suddenly there is techno music.

By Dikla.

Dikla wrote the music for the last two Notebooks. Here too there is a connection of film and life – Dikla is the mother of Shlomi’s daughter, and she is a part of this story. In the background, the music is about Shlomi’s world, and about the world of film. The last part of Black Notebooks is reminiscent of Israeli cinema of the 1960s, perhaps a ‘Burekas’ film, perhaps a melodrama.

Fascinating. There is so much subtext in this film. Viviane’s struggle in the court in all of these amazing scenes, Ronit’s attempt to say the texts right, it all suddenly turns into Ronit own struggle to continue living. It connects with the parts where she is ill in bed with infusions – chemotherapy, I suppose – and her struggle to live is so wholly connected with Viviane’s struggle to win the court case. The judges say, “Lady, accept your fate”, and Shlomi tells her, “This is your struggle for life”. It is as though the entire film, especially the second part, is Ronit’s struggle to go on living, her desire to go on living. All the segments in the dialectic editing, all the connections of the various parts come together in Ronit’s amazing struggle to live, the difficulty and the huge pain that is involved.

That’s true.

The quality of closeups of Ronit suffering remind me of the timeless closeups of Maria Falconetti in Carl Dreyer’s masterpiece “Jeanne D’Arc”. I think that ever since 1928 there were never such powerful closeups in cinema. Ronit is not alive, but as a result of the dialectic editing, many scenes show a gap between the various images and many images which the spectator’s brain bridges while watching, so that life is created every time the film is screened – a sense of life being created ‘here and now’. Somehow the film leaves Ronit alive, it is the most wonderful homage to Ronit that could be made.

That’s right. There is the power and desire to live, and on the other hand death that chases and reaches her in the end, and the idea that Ronit will meet death in every part, in every film, and every time she dies and is revived. We really managed to do this nearly everywhere we wanted, to remind the spectator that it was actually going to happen and still, there is life that begins again.

Give us an example.

For example, in the second Notebook, that leg shot – in Gett it had one significance – here through the shot taken in the film signifies walking to the gallows. The door closes slowly and there is a cut to black, a kind of cinematic death. After that shot, she is alive again, with those hospital infusions. A struggle phase begins with the illness in life, not in film. There are many moments that remind one that death is present. It will only come at the end of the film, but it is always there. It is her spirit that hovers above the whole time.

When we began to edit Gett Ronit found out that she was ill, and there were actually many segments that went into the notebooks and not into the film itself. There were moments she didn’t feel well, she coughed, shots that had no meaning at the time and then in the notebooks they get their meaning. We witness the tragedy happening right there in front of us, and we don’t believe this is happening. I mean, it’s an opportunity to go over the materials once more and give them new meaning. It is something that interests me a lot when I edit documentaries that use archive material. I am always stunned anew, how different the second looking and reading materials is. Time that has passed gives the material additional or new meanings.

Yes, we saw that in your film “Speer Goes to Hollywood”.


And naturally, in “A Film Unfinished” directed by Yael Hersonski.


I knew all these archive materials well, I had used them in my own films about the Holocaust – in “Pillar of Fire” and “Don’t Touch My Holocaust” – and watching those archive materials again in your film enabled my renewed and rather amazing reading of materials which I had used a lot and knew well. Suddenly it all received additional meaning, depth and power, like the discovery of new archeological strata. When did the idea come up to call the film “Black Notebooks”?

From the beginning. I think they are Shlomi’s diaries, it has political and social significance, as well as the metaphor of death that is also black.

At which point did you decide on the tone of Shlomi’s voiceover, almost a whisper. It is not your classical narration, it’s a very poetic soliloquy. It reminded me a bit of the soliloquy tones of “Wings of Desire”.

It came with the writing, the editing. As soon as the narrator voice came from the future and knew what was going to happen in the future, it brought with it the deep meaning of gazing at the life of the Elkabetz family. I must say that Shlomi is an excellent actor. He has discovered this talent in recent years and really directed himself amazingly. He knew exactly what he was looking for with his voice, and was very naturally precise.

The power of his voiceover is amazing because he speaks to himself. He quotes Ronit as if speaking to her through what she wrote about herself. It receives poetic cinematic qualities. It also works emotionally, and somehow architecturally, organizing the cinematic material into something so exact.

When he read out Ronit’s notebooks – she wrote a lot – I was very moved. I was afraid we’d have to replace his voice with a woman’s as though she were speaking. I didn’t want this, it felt too one-dimensional. We tried that, and I never heard the results. Apparently, there is a computer program that can take someone’s voice, if there is enough recorded material, and ask an actor to say different things that the person never uttered in their life, and this program manages to imitate that text with the person’s voice. Anyway, Shlomi tried and it didn’t work. Later I saw it working, for in the series on Andy Warhol he actually does all the narration himself, and alive he had never said those things. The program reconstructed his voice. There is something interesting in it when you think of the spirit, the ghost. We’d played around with this in the bath as well as at the end of the film when you suddenly hear Ronit’s voice from inside the house. But I’m glad that it remained Shlomi’s voice. I like the joining of her voice with his, one voice of two symbiotic people. We took sentences she uttered in a certain situation and gave them this present/absent quality. Did we hear it, or was through the walls, or were these the neighbors?

Yes, it’s very strong. The sound editing is excellent. I understand from you that this is something you did as the editor during the work.

I like working with sound and use it as much as I can in the editing room. For me, sound is an integral and acute part of the editing process. During the sound editing, Itzik Cohen, who worked with us on the soundtrack ever since Gett, adds and upgrades the atmosphere, making it more exact, and manages to give it the kind of cinematic nature we’re seeking.

There are several amazing things, when a kind of white noise comes from the sound, that disturbs us as it were from hearing the actual sound, and then the ‘disturbance’ disappears and we hear very well. Or when Ronit enters the car and there’s a dissonant screech and then the voiceover appears.

The screech is real, it really happened. This was one of those ‘fish’ that came while watching. Something happened to the microphone at a certain point, and there was no sound. Just all kinds of noises. Hearing it, I felt reminded of the rupture that would arrive – suddenly she would no longer be there. The image would stay, but something critical would disappear. It’s like the sound. We have a scene with sound which is one thing, and the same scene without sound becomes something different. It became a representation – it didn’t feel like a mistake. Usually when mistakes happen, I like them. It’s like the projectionist problem. I immediately think of the way they can be used.

We spoke about this earlier – that’s where the material is more intelligent than you are… How long did you work editing the film?

Around four years, with breaks. Occasionally we’d go into the editing room for a few months.

Why the breaks?

We felt we had to digest things and be smarter next time. I discovered it as an unbelievable luxury. Each time we came back to work, rather than being tired we were curious and passionate, with plenty of time to think how to take the film to the next level, deeper, more poetic, more interplay between the various layers, how to speak more about filmmaking. For example, something happened towards the end, this thing with the steps to the apartment. The Paris apartment kept returning in the film, all the time, a place one wishes to be a part of and is afraid to lose. Again, I remembered Vertigo and the stairs to the tower in the end. I suddenly realized there was something that could be done with stairs, and found stairs leading up and down which Shlomi had filmed, everything was already there. As though these materials simply waited for the right moment to enter the film.

You stopped editing altogether, he didn’t shoot supplementary footage…

No. You must remember Shlomi had a very complex time working on the film and these breaks were good for him, he needed air in view of his grief, his loss, the difficulty of creating something by himself.

Definitely, but somewhere I’m sure that making this film was constructive, it helped him cope with losing her.


My brother was killed in the Yom Kippur War, and I made six films about that war. Every 3-4 years I would go back and make another film. Filmmaking enabled me to cope with grief in a way that I don‘t think any other medium would have, it’s so real. In literature it is always the past, when you write it has always been. In cinema on the other hand, especially dialectic filmmaking, you create something that exists in the present, happening again every time, in every screening, non-linearly. It’s what creates life. Every time the film is screened is as though Ronit comes back to life somehow. It’s really powerful.

True. She goes back to being Viviane.

Yes. There are various levels in the film, and the subtext is so much richer than the text. Look, I’m so moved by this interview, you say wonderful things. You are also able to analyze your work brilliantly, not just technically. I thank you very much for this interview.

Thanks, I enjoyed it.