I saw The Kindergarten Teacher from the point of view of the female protagonist, Nira (Sarit Larry), who lives a normative existence; she has a seemingly happy marriage, two children, a job she seems to like, and her sudden fascination with the poetic genius of a five-year-old boy. While all of this seems picture perfect, her discovery of Yoav’s (stoically played by Avi Shnaidman) poetry leaves her stunned, a little shaken. It’s like this light at the end of the tunnel, this respite that her life craved for. Enough that it makes her break free from the shackles of her life and run away with Yoav, hoping to find some salvation.
Nira works at a kindergarten, where one of her students, Yoav, who is five years old, blurts out poetry effortlessly, almost callously sometimes. Nira finds it hard to comprehend this happening in the beginning. When Yoav’s nanny Miri (Ester Rada) makes the poetic happenings seem normal, Nira realizes what she has chanced upon. Thus begins her obsession with Yaov and the desire to protect him and his poetry.
Filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s film is static in places and voyeuristic in others. The camera closely follows Nira’s perspective and in Yoav’s utterances just watches him walk back and forth as he recites verse.
It’s interesting that no one around Nira seems to grasp the profound nature of her find. No one seems to realize the enormity of this child prodigy’s talent. Her life comes to a standstill if ever Yoav calls her because he has a poem, or if at school he takes to recitation. She scribbles his genius and clings to it, as if her life depended on it.
The slow and poignant pace of the film made me anticipate more layering, perhaps a sub-plot. But by the time I was thirty or so minutes into the film, it was clear that Nira and Yoav would remain the centerpiece of this narrative. Not for lack of more action, I felt that Nira came across as one-dimensional, both in her character sketch and performance. She even had this singular expression on her face, for most of the two-hour length of the film.
While the narrative is rich in sub-text of genius, art and its life independent of fame and recognition, and the need to feel that one exists, The Kindergarten Teacher’s execution wasn’t thoroughly engaging.
Nira finally decides to kidnap Yoav to protect him from a world that won’t understand him, to save his genius from being erased by normative living. While Nira never really recognizes why she runs away with Yoav, it left me wondering how suffocating a banal existence can be, that it compels you to find beauty in the nascent genius of a five year old.
The film will be playing at Cinema du Parc starting August 14th.