by Caress Thirus
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Nora’s Will (2008) is a film that explores the clash of realism and religion when death rears its ugly head. After the death of his Orthodox Jewish ex-wife Nora (Silvia Mariscal), atheist Jose Kurtz (Fernando Lujan) is faced with a dilemma. Because she died the day before Passover, and because Jewish law requires that the body must be buried only under specific circumstances, Kurtz has two options. He can bury his wife at 3:00 pm while his son is away on vacation, or he can wait four days, after Passover, and bury Nora with his family. Jose is frustrated by the religious standards of his family and his wife’s family, and they spend four days in disagreement and bickering.
Nora Kurtz does not die an average death. She was a suicidal woman, and she spent many of her days depressed and alone, or as far as her husband thought. After she finally succeeds in taking her own life, Jose discovers when searching her room that she hid many secrets from him after their divorce – and even more during their marriage.
Lujan gives an outstanding performance as a troubled soul who struggles to connect with the family, grieving for someone he knew better than they all did. His grief comes in the form of frustration, causing him to do disgraceful things like offer pork pizza to a rabbi during Passover, and to try and bury Nora in a Catholic cemetery during his son’s absence. He has a biting sense of humor that is no doubt his way of covering up the anger stirred inside of him by his deeply religious family and the loss of a woman he may have still cared about. Most of his emotion comes through when he’s alone, thinking about Nora and the good and bad times they had when still married.
The film is called Nora’s Will, but each character has his or her own will for Nora. Initially, they don’t even consider her in death, but they try to do what they each feel is best for her. As the story unfolds, and as the family is forced to work together for once, they wonder, had she planned for this all along?
The film is beautiful, with simple cinematography. It’s almost dream-like in some instances. The background music and slow pace of the film is very tranquil and soothing. The story, however, is anything but. Nora’s Will is a haunting tale that, though it has some resolution in the ending, will more than likely not leave the audience with a warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s simple enough to understand, but grows more complex as the family disagreements come into play, and as more characters are introduced. The story is beautifully done, and leaves the viewer in a thoughtful mood.
Caress Thirus is a student at Roosevelt University and a film enthusiast.
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