The star of the movie, Yehuda Barkan, is one of Israel’s most popular actors, and he is absolutely brilliant in his portrayals of the king in two of the stories. Every gesture of his face, every look in his eyes, burst with emotion. In the famous story of the “Turkey Prince,” when his son freaks out and starts acting like a turkey, the face of the king fills with anguish and he cries out, “What did I do wrong? Maybe I should have spent more time being a father and less time being a king.” It is one of those magical movie moments where the actor becomes every parent in the world. Along with the wonderful performance of Yehuda Barkan, the young actor filling the role of prince (Fishman’s son, Amichai) did an amazing job acting lik a bona fide turkey. His return to normalcy has a powerful message for every mother and father.
And Fishman’s old Hollywood friend, Daniel Dayan, a baal tshuva himself, is more than convincing in his multiple roles in the movie, whether he is playing the Jewish Sage or the simple Fixer who is happy with his lot. By the way, the beard that flows down to his waist isn’t a prop – it’s his!
Fishman himself did a very professional job producing and directing the movie. Because the film is composed of separate stories, it doesn’t keep you nervously biting your fingernails all the way through to the end like in a thriller or action movie. That obviously wasn’t the goal. Rather than trying to arouse the senses of the body, the movie tries to stimulate the brain. That’s what I mean by it being a “Torah Movie.” In addition to being fun and entertaining, the film is an ideal vehicle for triggering discussions about the deep Torah themes in the stories. And that’s how Fishman intends to use the movie. He’s busy setting up screenings in community centers, yeshivot, ulpanot, and regular high schools, where one or more stories of the film will be screened, accompanied by a lecture and discussion. He even has a website for the movie (www.rebbenachmanstories.com) with a special “Teacher’s Guide” designed to help stimulate class discussion.
For instance, the story, the “Turkey Prince” is about dealing with children who rebel to a disturbing extreme. Like many of our kids today, the prince throws off his princely cap and starts acting in the most upsetting way, driving his father to tears. How do we relate to kids like these? After all the magicians and wise men in the kingdom fail to cure the son, the Jewish Sage gets down under the table with the youth and begins to act like a turkey too, in order to forge a relationship with the boy. In the course of their friendship, the Sage sings a song that teaches us to accept our kids for who they are, and to highlight their good points, rather than yelling at them for not being perfect like we are: “I am what I am, what I am is me. When I look at myself and see in me, all the very good things that I see in me – I’m pleased with myself with what I see.”
Another poignant tale in the film is the story, “A Matter of Trust,” about a rich and famous king who feels empty inside. While the consumer world around us wants us to think that the secret of happiness lies in materialism, the clear message of the story is that true happiness can only be attained through being happy with one’s lot. The famous story of the “Treasure” also emphasizes that we all have a treasure within us, and that we needn’t journey far and wide searching for our identities and pleasures in foreign pastures, but that we have everything we need right at home in the treasure chest of our Jewish soul. This same theme also appears in the longest of the four stories, “The Worldly Son and the Simpleton,” which mirrors the two differing camps which characterize the Jewish People today – the religious and the secular. In the tale of two childhood friends who go in different ways, we see the tragic fall of the Worldly Son who seeks fame and fortune in pursuing the wisdoms and cultures of the world, only to become an adamant disbeliever in G-d. Instead of finding joy in his great intellectual achievements and skills, he comes to depression and despair, seeing, under the microscope of his analytical reasoning and logic, the shortcomings in everything he does. In contrast, his old friend, the Simpleton, is always happy, valuing the simple things in life. But in this happy and optimistic movie, which I can highly recommend for all ages, this tale of “The Worldly Son and the Simpleton” has a happy ending too – only I won’t spoil the fun by revealing what happens. You’ll have to see for yourselves.