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RIKLIS, ERAN – THE HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER

WEEPING MADONNA & MAN MADE MIRACLES
A small church in a small village in Romania offers visitors a weeping Madonna in stained glass. For filmmaker Eran Riklis, it may have been a sign, he tells Andrew L. Urban.


While Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis was scouting locations in Romania for his film The Human Resources Manager, he stopped in one of the villages on the road. He saw the children playing, the women working, the horse, the donkey the single taxi and the typical Russian Orthodox Church. “I’m a good Jewish boy so I walked in,” he says jokingly, “and I was looking at the rich decorations and the beautiful stained glass windows, when I suppose what you’d call the village hunchback grabbed my arm and dragged me over to one of the windows, saying ‘come, you must see this miracle ... the weeping Madonna.’

And sure enough, Riklis saw the Madonna in stained glass, with tears coming from her eye. “For a second it brought everything together for me – the simplicity of the village, the majesty of the church, the trick somebody set up – or was it really a miracle… and it stayed with me.”

"miracles can be man made"

The weeping Madonna has been recreated in the film, in a short throw-away but memorable moment, one of many that add texture to a film that has won every possible award in Israel and is being released around the world. If you wish to believe in such things, it is a sign that miracles can be man made.

The film is adapted from a novel by Abraham B. Jehoshua. After a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, a young female migrant worker is found dead, the only ID being a paycheck from a bakery. The HR manager (Mark Ivanir) of Israel's largest industrial bakery, tries to save the reputation of the business and prevent the publication of a defamatory article in a local tabloid newspaper. But it’s complicated …. and involves being out of town – in Romania - when his ex-wife (Reymond Amsalem) and daughter (Roni Koren) are expecting him to attend a school outing with her.

“The book is much more philosophical and psychological than my film,” says Riklis. “I’m a shallow guy! A filmmaker!” he laughs down the phone from Tel Aviv. “I try to keep a balance … you know, in real life we can run from a funeral to a wedding.”

"discovering what being human is all about"

The story appealed to Riklis (who also made The Lemon Tree) for various reasons, including its observation about humanity. “Here’s a human resources manager who can’t even cope with his own relationships – his wife, his daughter …And he’s at once Everyman and a figure from a Greek tragedy and the story is about a human relationship manager discovering what being human is all about.”

And he does it through death, in a way, as he is compelled to accompany the body of the young woman to her home in Romania. Along the way, he encounters colourful characters and obstacles; he is faced with a task thrust upon him by fate. He’s an unheroic figure, yet he undertakes a heroes’ journey.

“The journey in the film,” says Riklis, “that also happened to me, both physically and emotionally.”

Published May 5, 2011

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Eran Riklis

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