The penultimate film in this year’s Film Series: Developing Passions, co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society, Inc , and The Humanities Institute at USF, was Aviva, My Love (screenplay and direction by Shemi Zarhin) a poignant, often humorous, Israeli film about family in which an aspiring writer struggles to manage all the competing demands in her life: her unemployed husband, her three, sullen children, her eccentric mother, her infertile sister and brother-in-law, and the bills. Men in the audience felt sad for Aviva. Women in the audience saw Aviva as doing what women have always done to keep a family together.
The film opens where an aging and corpulent dentist tells Aviva (Asi Levi) that her daughter’s dental bills will be forgotten if Aviva will take off her shirt. [I found it disconcerting that the audience laughed here.] This scene foreshadows a more significant form of prostitution [and sets the emotional tone for the women of the audience]. Aviva refuses the dentist, but not Oded (Sason Gabai), a writing professor who, ten years previously, had written a best seller.
Aviva, never having attended college herself, is a writer, writing in her head as she prepares food at the hotel restaurant where she is employed as a chef, writing in her notebooks as her children at home argue, TV blaring. Aviva is uncertain of her talent. Though never published, her husband Moni (Dror Keren) and her sister Anita (Rotem Abuhav) refer to her, encouragingly, as the “famous writer.” Younger, envious Anita types Aviva’s scribbled stories.
Throughout history, women with mouths to feed have been forced to sell their bodies or their souls. Aviva stumbles, then, recovers herself, to find her voice, and, at the end of the film, she writes now in first person.
Aviva, My Love was discussed by clinician Sheldon Wykell, LCSW and USF professor Rina Donchin. The last film in the series, Hiroshima Mon Amour, will be viewed on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 2pm in room MDA 1097 at the USF medical school.