Adopting to a completely new culture can be a terrifying experience. As an individual whose parents are immigrants themselves, I’ve experienced a few of their same tragic obstacles in everyday Canadian life. The implied racist dialect, the aggressive tone of voice, and the shifts in slang are all factors directed towards a larger systematic problem. It’s a case of culture clash and the “purified” white dominated dream of a solemn nation. The attitudes targeted at people like myself tend to shift towards the expectations of a specific race; in order to complete a goal of Orthodox rulings. I’ve noticed this shift frequently with a few of my Hispanic friends, who unknowingly are separating their culture and prior historic background, in order to please the hive of like-minded capitalist driven individuals. In Nadav Lapid’s latest feature Synonyms, ideas correlating with these sinister expectations and the weight of one’s hand-cuffed labels, are tested in a series of absurdist scenarios, consumed by a gratifying sense of tame tomfoolery.
We follow Yoav, a young Israeli man in dire need of a new nationality. Bounded by his dictionary of vibrant vocabulary, Yoav roams the streets of Paris, as he befriends new companions and obsesses over lavish french lifestyles. His six month escapade from Israel soon becomes a decent into societal-hell, as he’s maddened by ideas of luxurious francophone fever dreams and discarded memories of the country he once called home. Synonyms understands the power of perception, and utilizes the frightening side-effects of reality in a refreshingly human light; thanks to the generous talent from newcomer Tom Mercier.
However, within its strong thesis regarding the delusion and susceptible brainwashing of western life and culture on immigrants; the rest of the film is bare-bones in comparison. Everything is an allegory in Synonyms, where the interpretation of one scene, can drastically affect the result of another. In a delicate web of carefully placed narrative sequences, there’s a surprising plethora of moments that simply distract the focus and purpose of what the film wanted to get across. Even in some of the more chaotic scenes, the execution feels awkward and sorely paint-by-numbers. If you’re creating a heightened universe, that supposed to be a reflection on our very own society, than go to the fullest extreme! Film is meant to shock and enlighten, not bore and abhor.
Sometimes, well-intentioned pretentious pseudo-intellectual schlock can be truly exhausting. Synonyms is a relentless film that never shuts up. Its an exuberant farce, hidden in a facade of constantly spouting ideas, concepts, and observations, that fails in weaving a nicely stitched thread between these unique intentions. I’m content that Lapid managed to take a step forward in attempting to develop his controversial beliefs/stance on societal conformity, regardless of how mixed the result came to be. At the end of the day, Synonyms is a film that can best described as Cheap, Crummy, Lousy, Poor, Rough, Ambitious, Mediocre, ETC..
Synonyms screened at this year’s Festival Du Nouveau Cinema. The film will play again on Saturday, October 14th at 1:15 PM at Cineplex Quartier Latin 17. Kino Lorber will release the film in select cinemas on October 25th