Theater of Cruelty

Spiritual DNA

What is the place of our life stories in the big context?


The Chaos Within
Directed and screenplay: Yakov Yanai Lein,
Photo: Yakov Yanai Lein, Hemla Lein
The movie is streaming here.

Yakov Lein – who is both director and main character in The Chaos Within – is a young man astray. He was born and raised in Tel Aviv in an Orthodox Hasidic home in the Bnei Brak district. His parents are divorced, but his mother has found a new man. Not any man, either, but Kabbalist Rabbi Ashlag, who also made his mother deeply believer. But then he died, leaving his mother in a spiritual crisis. She was on the cusp of something, a spiritual truth, through Ashlag, but then he disappeared. She studies the Torah all day long. "Rebbe taught my mother kabbalah, then he disappeared," Yakov says.


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The mother's closest is her dead husband or the Torah. For although she dances, smiles and laughs, she is a distant mother. She is not warm, she is not loving. She doesn't even want to hug Yakov ("I hate it, especially from behind"). During a Kabbala conference in Moscow, she tells him that he is a zero, "like most others." She's distant to him and maybe to herself, but Yakov tries to figure out who have an updated is, as he tries to locate himself self, throughout The Chaos Within. As he gets closer to her, he gets closer to who he is, he thinks. Maybe that's why he made this movie – to create a sharper look at himself and her? Maybe the movie is a family therapeutic tool? A medium for reinventing a family, locating a mother's heat, creating a home?

Alternative identity. It's a unique story – and a unique life map – Yakov Lein records. Bnei Brak, the place where he lived with his ultra-Orthodox family, was a traditionally bound area, where one should learn the Torah and have the side locks that suited a young Jew in Tel Aviv. But Yakov is unable to associate with the Kabbalah. He can't identify with his Jewish identity, he can't think of Jewish history, and he can't grow the long lures.
I The Chaos Within he looks back to see the present and the future: he got other role models than those intended for him. He wanted away, out of his broken Jewish self. He would be elsewhere, imagine another Yakov. When his father – a cultured gentleman who plays a modest role in the film – bought a subscription to the local video store, he took his role models from Vertovs Man with film camera or Blade Runner more than from the canon of Kabbalah. "I knew I had to leave Bnei Brak," he says. He cut off his curls, became punk, stopped quoting the holy scriptures, and took to the streets. "When I was 14, I used the freedom I had for all it was worth. I left the house, I left Rebbe, I left mother, I left God. " It did not go so well, because he lost himself even more. He wandered restlessly in the streets, and he began using heroin.

Rootless. But when the movie starts, he's back in the family. He is back in the faith and has put the heroin behind him. He tries, at least – he tries to relate to both of them, to the stories and traditions that lie there in family history. Yakov wants to be himself and have a home in the world.
During The Chaos Within – which maps a ten-year period – he makes several new friends. He marries, has children and establishes a home, but still remains rootless. Towards the end of the film, he drives through streets on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Here he finds a stray dog ​​wandering along the road. Yakov shouts to him, asks if he should not get in the car, if he does not want Yakov to take care of him. He stops and opens the doors on the deserted stretch of road, but the dog strides on – further along the road on his stray and restless journey, just as Yakov himself does. "Suddenly I realized that it is not in my nature to connect with anyone. Just myself, "he says. "I need a miracle to find a home."

Common heart. Does this miracle happen in the movie? I think so. In the last part, he travels with his mother to a Kabbalah conference in Kiev, Ukraine. Before heading to the gathering – where they will pray together for world peace and "our common heart," as the mother puts it – they visit Babi Yar outside the city. Here, over 100 Jews were killed in a few days by the Nazis during World War II. Several of their relatives died here, says the mother, clearly marked by the seriousness of the moment and the difficult past.
While standing there, the relationship between mother and son is reversed. "She looks like a little girl, I feel like holding her," says Yakov. On this journey he saw her in the light of a past, a traumatic past, which he had not seen in this way before. "A deep empathy was born in me," admits the rootless director. Or maybe we should say it former rootless director, because something happens on this trip that makes the pieces fall into place. There is an emotional and intellectual shift in the times and spaces that the film documents, which changes the coordinates. There is a contact between him and his mother – but also parts of him that have previously been separated are spliced ​​in Babi Yar and the subsequent prayer. At home with his wife and children, he holds them and thinks: “I have no choice. I must protect them from the darkness of my own heart. "

The place of stories. What is the individual's place in the great whole? How can our little destinies, our micro-narratives, find a meaningful place in the macro-narratives? These are questions each of us has to deal with – and it is also the answer to those that constitute the direction of our lives. Israeli director Yakov Yanai Lein tries to place himself and his family's weave of stories in the big picture in this touching documentary.

We are all rootless, but look around you, says The Chaos Within.

We are all rootless, but look around you, says The Chaos Within. Look around you. On your loved ones. At the house you live in. At work that makes sense. This is the stage for the stories that create you. This is the stage you should stand on when explaining to others and yourself who you are. But also look back, back in your family's history. Here, too – in the traumas, in the pain, in death and loss – are the places where the current scenography must be anchored in order to bring with it the whole of your identity, the whole that stretches far back to the time before you were created. But who also anticipates what is going to happen.
DNA is important, but it is your dreams and fantasies that expand the stage you are on towards the dramas of the future. As Yakov's mother says, we must take care of and be aware of our spiritual DNA. "For spiritual DNA is a human desire," says Yakov's mother. This is where the story of you crystallizes – so you can look further and come home.

Røed is a regular critic in Ny Tid.

Kjetil Røed
Kjetil Røed
Freelance writer.

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