Hidden Light: Judaism and Mystical Experience in Israeli Cinema by Dan Chyutin
Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series
Over the past several decades, the prevailing attitude toward Judaism in Israeli society has undergone a meaningful shift; where the national ethos had once deemed Judaic traditions a vestige of an arcane past incompatible with the culture of a modern state, there is now greater acceptance of these traditions by a sizeable part of Israeli society. Author Dan Chyutin reveals this trend through a parallel shift toward acceptance and celebration of Judaic identity and lifestyle in modern Israeli cinema. Hidden Light explores the Judaic turn in contemporary Israeli filmmaking for what it can tell us about Israel’s cultural landscape, as well as about the cinematic medium in general. Chyutin points to the ambivalence of films which incorporate Judaism into Israel’s secular ethos; concurrently, he foregrounds the films’ attempt to overcome this ambivalence through reference to and activation of experiences of transcendence and unity, made popular by New Age-inflected understandings of Jewish mystical thought. By virtue of this exploration, Judaic-themed Israeli cinema emerges as a crucial example of how film’s particular form of “magic” may be exploited for the purpose of affecting mystical states in the audience.
Year first published: 2023