1.33:1, 1991, canada, english
“I allowed myself to be convinced. I could have gone back, to be with them, I didn't. And now, there is no grave where I can ask their forgiveness.”

The Quarrel

A truly monumental film that I wish could be seen by far more people. It's a powerful look at faith and life and friendship.

Two men walk through a park in Montréal, they haven’t seen each other since before World War II. They knew each other, in earlier times, as fellow students at a Yeshiva in Poland. One of them has opened his own Yeshiva in Montréal, the other is a secular writer from New York City, in town for a reading. And they both think the other died in the Holocaust. They run in to each other, in Montréal, and they begin to talk. And then they begin to argue.

It’s an amazing film. Truly brilliant in its power and simplicity. These two men, who last saw each other when the writer left their Yeshiva, continue an argument they had started in simpler times. But now that argument is happening after the Holocaust. It’s happening after they both somehow managed to survive, a fact which fills them with guilt. It’s happening after both lost their entire families, their wives and their children, and it has changed them. For one the experience has caused him to deepen his faith, for the other it has solidified his choice to leave Judaism for good. And they argue, and they fight, and they reveal the incredible love they have for each other. It’s absolutely stunning to watch. It’s so sad, and happy, and thoughtful, and complicated.

It’s also incredibly well done. This sort of film, two people arguing and wandering through a park, would be horrible without a truly great story. Without the incredible acting of the two leads it would be phoney or boring. And the rest of the film making does exactly what it needs to do, it gets out of the way to let this conversation take place. It’s a lovingly shot film, with a nice background of local people speaking in French, and some truly beautiful Montréal scenery. But, ultimately, it’s all just there to service the conversation, something it does perfectly.

It’s a hard film to find nowadays, at least in the USA. It was made in the early 90’s in Canada and doesn’t seem to be available almost anywhere. I saw it originally in high school when my parents got a VHS copy somehow. I was able to track it down again recently and, rewatching it as an older person, I was even more stunned with its power then I was when I was a kid. If you can find a copy it’s absolutely worth watching. It will make you think.