ND/NF 2015: The Kindergarten Teacher
Filming can be considered a form of poetry, visual of course. Otherwise, as a written medium and highly subjective art form I’ve most often found the use of poetry in film to be unmoving. In Nadav Lapid’s Israeli film The Kindergarten Teacher a middle-aged woman, Nira (Sarit Larry), has recently discovered a love of poetry and begun to practice it, reciting to her husband who responds encouragingly but indifferently. One day a student in her Kindergarten class, a small five-year-old named Yoav (Avi Shnaidman) announces to his nanny in the school yard that he has a poem. She runs to grab paper and Nira watches as the boy paces back and forth, trance like, reciting a simple but beautiful poem about emotions and experiences he can’t possibly understand. She’s moved and inspired.
She recites his poem in her poetry class later and is delighted and affirmed to hear that it’s considered excellent by her peers. Though, they don’t know the poem isn’t hers. When Yoav’s nanny is rather flippant about the boy’s genius, and she learns his single-parent father cares nothing for nurturing this element of his son, her instincts kick into high gear to protect and encourage the boy’s talent. But after pushing the boy to perform publicly, things spiral and Nira becomes unhinged, obsessed as she is with Yoav and his abilities.
The performances of The Kindergarten Teacher are what safeguard the film from being maudlin or even psychotic, two extremes the film could have fallen into. Lapid’s decision to treat the camera casually, allowing actors to touch, run into, and even stare directly into it, providing a jarring self-aware element that isn’t always understood but certainly grounds the film from becoming lost in the head-in-the-clouds behavior of Nira. Poetry is still quite subjective, but the young Shnaidman’s straight forward youthful recitations cause even this dispassionate viewer to pay attention and appreciate. The film is an excellent first feature and touches on the need in creatives to find beauty and art in life and help it to flourish, even if it stands as a reminder of one’s own inability.