How different things could be,
if only people on the opposite sides of a conflict could sit down and talk to
each other with a sense that they are common human beings, instead of resorting
to warfare. This is the simple yet frustratingly often ignored message from
Israeli director Eran Riklis in his film Cup Final. Set in 1982, the
film follows an Israeli soldier who'd much rather be watching the World Cup
soccer final in Spain than serving as a soldier in Israel's invasion of
Lebanon. As it happens, he's captured by a group of the opposition, whose
leader turns out to be a fan of the same soccer team.
A text screen at the beginning
of the film attempts to set the historical context of the story. Several
different groups are mentioned as fighting in Lebanon, and the film is probably
much more significant if the viewer knows which ones of the characters are
supporters of which cause, and what exactly they are fighting for.
Unfortunately, my recollection of modern history is more on the general level
than the specific, and the film doesn't really provide any contextual support.
Throughout this film I felt
that I was missing something, probably the cultural background to understand
what was going on. The interactions among the characters are puzzling, with
casual comments or incidents seeming to indicate a depth of significance that
eluded me, as when the group of captors passes a lone gunman and have a cryptic
exchange about whether or not he will follow them. The characters themselves
are quite numerous and impossible to keep track of. And, frankly, I never found
any particular reason to be interested in keeping track of them.
The theme is in the end an
anti-war one, with the characters on the two sides finding, through the medium
of their shared support of the Italian soccer team in the World Cup, a sense of
a common humanity that goes beyond the black and white lines of their politics.
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this theme is sabotaged by the film as a
whole; with no clear sense of the characters or a driving narrative, I found
myself disengaged from the events and characters on-screen. It's a shame,
because I like the theme that Riklis was reaching for, but Cup Final
just flatly doesn't work for me as a film.
Although some online sources
indicate that it is widescreen, in fact Cup Final is presented in a
1.33:1 aspect ratio transfer. From the framing of many of the shots, it looks
to me that the image has been cropped from a widescreen image, although I
wasn't able to confirm this one way or another.
Colors are terribly washed out;
granted, the color palette is subdued to begin with, but the transfer itself
waters the colors down even more, so that everything looks uniformly drab and
lifeless. The greens of the vegetation are flat and grayish, while the skin
tones of the characters are as dully brownish and grayish as their clothing and
surroundings. The image wavers occasionally, and on the whole is blurry and
unattractive. Some print flaws are also in evidence. The DVD claims that this
is a "newly remastered transfer," but if that's the case, I hate to
think what the original looked like.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is as
lackluster as the image quality. The sound is very flat and lifeless, and
sounds more like a poor mono track than a normal 2.0 track. The actors' voices
are muffled and frequently have a harsh tinge of distortion behind them.
The soundtrack is mostly in
Hebrew and another language, which I didn't recognize and that is not
identified in the subtitles, spoken by the PLO members in Lebanon. Some
portions are in English, as the common language between the two groups.
English subtitles are burned
in, except when the characters speak English. The subtitles are readable, being
white outlined in black, and they're not the worst I've seen, but they don't
seem to have been written (or proofread) by a fluent speaker of English. Some
odd errors crop up, like a problem with contractions ("don't" is
consistently printed as "do 'nt," and "isn't" as "is
'nt") and some missing spaces between sentences.
Some text-based information is
provided: a short statement from director Eran Riklis about his intentions for
the film, and a biography of him. A photo gallery is also included, along with
trailers for Merci Pour Le Chocolat and Yana's Friends. Menus are
straightforward and easy to use.
Cup Final's DVD case
includes a lot of praise for this as a top Israeli film; given how uninvolving
I found it, I suspect that this might just be one of those films that doesn't
translate well. (Or it could just be a lackluster film that a few people really
liked; that's also a possibility.) But in any case, the lousy video and audio
transfer puts another nail in the coffin, and I suggest that viewers just skip