Deniz Demirer and Daniel Kremer create something so touchable and real, that it feels unscripted. So many times during Ezer Kenegdo I wondered whether there were hidden cameras filming the whole thing, rather than people acting it out. No performance could ever be this natural and effortless, so stripped of self-consciousness and discomfort, I thought. But I was wrong, and very shocked and pleased to be so. From the opening scene, where Rob Nilsson as Harry Kierk talks about the animals needing the meat in order to shit and fuck, to the closing scene of Daniel Kremer showing us around his religiously and philosophically layered dream, the acting is so credible and smooth that it keeps us within the story and never kicks us out — not for a moment does what we see become distant.
The two filmmakers write, direct and act out the story of Ezer Kenegdo — a story full of friendly and unfriendly conflict due to different religious beliefs, which crosses paths with the quest for artist Harry Kierk. Izzy, a Chassidic Jew, and Marek, a Polish Catholic, meet in San Francisco and try to arrange a meeting with the famous iconoclast through Marek’s anti-Semitic cousin Irek. But what happens, the reasons why these people are brought to us and where this encounter will take them, is not at all important, it turns out. If there are moments where you feel as though Ezer Kenegdo has lost its way, it’s because it never had a direction to begin with. It explores itself through its characters, following leads as they appear, and showing no interest in keeping it together.
A dialogue-heavy film which unveils itself through questions and answers, contemplative narration, awkward pauses and impulsive responses, Ezer Kenegdo truly cares about the discussions and their multiple hidden or expressed ideas. There are many sequences to behold, from the late night get-together in Marek’s flat, to a drunken Irek storming into the house verbally attacking Izzy, or the various car journeys, where we see Izzy and Marek from behind, hearing them just chat, reflect on things, fight or burst into laughter. Their interaction is beautiful – it never feels forced and it is just kind all the way, even during those moments when their different religious standpoints want them apart.
And the same goes for the interaction between Marek and Irek. When they go on a walk together and get caught up talking about things, they softly bounce off one another, completing each other’s phrases and making it all look incredibly gracious, even when they are being unfair and their beliefs questionable. And apart from the very obvious Rob Nilsson who is as impeccable as always, substantial credit needs to be given to Josh Safdie, who although has a rather small part, he is wonderful to watch. There is a moment near the beginning of the film, where he is spending time with his child, and all his gazes, expressions and reactions are so impossibly genuine and gentle that you stop caring about what it is that he says, and you just focus on his movements.
And a final thing I’d like to mention is Deniz Demirer and Daniel Kremer’s script which is flowing quietly and naturally, unfolding itself freely and without pushed or unrealistic moments. Many points are made that find us in disagreement and many things are said that we wish they hadn’t been. But what’s so interesting and refreshing is that there is always at least one other character that seems to feel the same way. We don’t get to experience the awkwardness alone, there is always someone in Ezer Kenegdo to help us through this or to answer for us. And although some characters have been scripted to be more likeable than others, no one means bad, is too arrogant or stuck in his ways. Every one of them will relax and even apologise once it’s all gone down, leaving us with the feeling that in the end friendship does and should come first – even among strongly opinionated, religiously adamant people.
Watch the trailer for Ezer Kenegdo here: