"Jellyfish": Family-ar Scars and Dreamlike Self-Confrontation By Burcu Aykar Şirin
by Burcu Aykar
Jellyfish (Meduzot) is a film refreshingly converging stories, and indescribably touching because of its universal theme of love and trust and its creative way of using images to craft a world between fantasy and reality, consciousness and sub-consciousness. It is both an observation on how the pace and values of modern city life lead people to alienation and consequently their disappointment with loved ones and also a call to confront our deepest fears and deal with our childhood traumas. The brilliance and uniqueness of the film lies in its ability to blend successfully surreal images and symbols reflecting the characters’ inner spiritual journey with images of the so-called real world.
A young woman in her mid-twenties, Batya, works as a waitress in wedding ceremonies. Her parents are divorced, her father dates a young girl and her mother is a famous woman who organizes fundraising events to help the poor. They are both too busy to have a decent relationship with her. She breaks up with her boyfriend and is clearly not very happy with her life.
Joy is a Philippine woman living in Israel away from her little son in order to earn money by taking care of the elderly. She is not greeted with delight by the people she takes care of, because the ill elderly actually wants to be attended to by their own families. She misses her son who is angry at her for leaving him.
A young couple who have just got married, Michael and Keren, cannot go on their honeymoon to the Caribbean as planned, because Keren breaks her leg. Instead they stay at a city hotel overlooking the sea. However, Keren is never satisfied or content. She complains about the smell in one room, the noise in another and wants a room with a sea view. When a mysterious woman who is staying at a suite with a view offers to give them her room, Keren gets jealous and accuses her husband of having slept with her.
Although the stories of the different characters are not actually linked, Batya, Joy and the young couple go past each other in a wedding, on the streets or at the hospital. What combines them on the other hand is the common problems being lived between parents and their children or between lovers due to a lack of trust and inability to show love. Parents provide the first mirror images for their children upon which the children build their identities. When there are cracks in this image and the child does not have a healthy, trusting relationship with his/her parents, then all through life s/he will have to live under the influence of these spiritual scars — until the day s/he chooses to confront and get rid of them.
Batya says she does not trust anyone. She was betrayed by her parents as a child — the promises made to her were not kept. Her mother promised her that “the ice cream man would come and they would buy some for her later on”, but they never did. That’s why she has a problem maintaining relationships. She leads a lonely life until one day her subconscious prevents her from running away from her problems any more. The symbol of her traumatic memories appears in the shape of a silent, little girl (played by an incredibly successful and unforgettable child actress). It is worth noting that she comes out of the sea, which with all its vastness, may very well be standing for Batya’s subconscious. Now Batya has to deal with painful memories, her mother’s coldness, her father’s indifference, her own insecurities and make a journey in her soul to realize her own value.
On the other hand, Keren secretly wishes to be a writer, but does not trust herself enough to pursue her dream. When alone, she writes about a ship in a bottle, reflecting her longing to be protected and cut off from others, just like a toy ship in glass. When she realizes she has made a mistake not trusting her husband, she cuts away the plaster on her leg, showing that she may get rid of the fears that had stopped her before; there’s hope for change.
Joy can make a change in an old woman’s (Malka’s) life. The friendship they develop affects them both greatly. Malka, who is unable to appreciate her daughter or show affection to her, can feel for Joy.
What the movie puts forward touchingly is that it is those who are the closest to us that we have difficulty giving to. Being a parent, providing children with full trust is difficult. For children it is difficult to ignore the faults of their parents; to heal their wounds and to find that feeling of confidence within. As wounded adults, it is hard to not bring emotional baggage to romantic relationships.
Jellyfish is a piece of inventive and creative filmmaking, rich with its layers of meaning, very moving and gripping. Set in Tel Aviv, it offers the delight of following the countless references to water which are always related to some kind of inner journey: The sea itself, a room with a sea view, the rain, water dripping from the ceiling, a toy ship, the sketch of a ship, a rolling life buoy, a poem about a ship in a bottle, water left in a glass, a girl appearing from the sea… All these elements come together to create the dreamlike reality of the film, a reality resonating with the emotions of the characters. When Batya follows the life buoy rolling down the street, she’s on her way to discover that no matter what her parents said or did, actually “the ice cream man was always there.” She just has to realize that.