It is a particular and problematic period for Victor and Raya Frenkel. We are in 1990 and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the limits and barriers imposed by the Soviet regime, a growing number of Jews residing in the former USSR decided to join the State of Israel.
The phenomenon, known as Aliyah (the return to Israel), has profoundly changed Israeli society, its culture, Europeanizing it much more, but also involving a multiculturalism that has also resulted in significant problems, especially for those who, like the two protagonists, were no longer very young or particularly flexible.
Evgeny Ruman, dopo Igor and the Cranes’ Journey, The Man in the Wall e Ruby Strangelove Young Witch, confirms his fame as a creative, sensitive and absolutely not obvious nor superficial director, creating a narrative process in which the historical component is parallel to the drama of the two tender and somewhat clumsy protagonists.
From Russia with fear
Victor (Vladimir Friedman) and Raya (Maria Belkin) are not just any two people, two Russian Jews like the others. For years they have been the two leading voice actors for Russian audiences, they have given voice to the greatest films in history, but now, now in the 60s unequivocally, they must not only adapt to a new country, a new culture, but also look for a new job.
This process, in the screenplay conceived by Evgeny Ruman and Ziv Berkovic, it quickly becomes a journey into the relationship between cinema and memories, between cinema and identity.
And cinema for Victor and Raya above all has one name: Federico Fellini. The Voice of the Moon, 8 e ½, The Nights of Cabiria, are always present, especially claimed by the clumsy and intractable Victor as the highest symbol of that seventh art to which he gave his life.
Friedman manages to make this stubborn artist, unable to leave the past behind him, a witness to the marvel of cinema, before the advent of that home video reality in which he will become involved almost by chance.
There are also Kramer versus Kramer e Spartacus which are mentioned, as well as Mom, I Lost the Plane. The film is a journey of memories in the cinema that was, of which it shows the increasingly mainstream dimension of theaters and audiences.
But on balance, more than cinema, Voci d’Oro talks about life, it talks about how it changes, of two ex rampant artists reduced to look into the eyes of the autumn of their hopes and their lives. In this, Ruman proves to be as inventive as he is not very rhetorical.
A bittersweet film that addresses many themes
Raya decides, to earn a living, to work for a hot phone line, used by many Russian immigrants in Israel. After the first, understandable embarrassments, the actress in her takes over, quickly becoming the best among the telephone operators, thanks to her imagination, her ability to conceal with her voice, as well as her sensitivity.
Raya will begin to look at her past life completely differently, her relationship with a man who, she realizes, has always been a limit to her freedom and her fulfillment as a woman and artist. Unlike Victor, that country seems to her capable of giving her a new reason for living, of allowing her to go beyond her fears, what she did not see and did not want to be.
Victor, on the other hand, is the symbol of that part of the world that was unable (at least not immediately) to adapt, to detach itself from the way of thinking and living of the dying Soviet colossus.
With Voci d’Oro we joke, we smile, but we are moved and saddened in seeing the vital charge trapped inside two bodies aged in spite of hopes and dreams.
On balance it is also a film about the problems of the old age that looms, about the eroticism that tries to go out in every way without knowing how. But net of a certain atmosphere of despair and loneliness, the finish is full of hope and sweetness, albeit cloaked in a deconstruction of the Hollywood happy end. But they liked Fellini so much.
Voci d’oro is a perfect example of genuine and humble authorship, of a director’s ability to talk to us about a phase of life in a way quite different from the norm.
In addition to this, the very topical theme of women’s freedom and dignity, of emancipation, is inserted in a rather original and not at all obvious way, a subject that in Israel, as well as in Eastern Europe, unfortunately remains somewhat problematic and not at all obvious.
The protagonist duo is simply perfect, given its ability to reassure us in the face of ultimate reality, and that is that basically we all always make the same mistakes forever, without perhaps correcting ourselves. Thinking about it, it is also a way to still feel young.