The prospects of seeing an Israelian rock musical with references to both La La Land and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg should be exciting to any fan of the genre. And it was with these pretences that I walked into Red Fields, with little more information than the paltry synopsis written in the TIFF program book and the single still image that accompanied it. It’s honestly the best way to walk into any film, and one of the perks of attending any film festival. In an ideal world, the mystery and excitement you bring into the film would be reciprocated in kind by the time the credits roll.
Unfortunately for Red Fields, my post-screening reaction was not nearly as positive as what I had hoped for. Sure, this is a musical with a pretty big flare of creative ambition as it is far from your usual musical. Similar to Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables, Keren Yedaya had her actors sing on camera, and seems to turn things up a notch by having musical instruments recorded the same way (at least for some of the songs). The musical elements are also not what you normally expect, and to be quite honest, don’t really work that well either. Personal tastes aside, there aren’t necessarily any memorable tunes in the film, which is problematic for a musical.
What Yedaya seems to have a great handle on, is her commentary on the sociopolitical climate of Israel, which she effectively embeds into the film’s narrative. Even with only a limited understanding of the region’s political situation, it’s clear that there is more substance to what is presented on the story's surface.
To say that Red Fields was disappointing would probably be an overstatement, as the film is certainly an interesting examination of both Israeli politics and the musical genre. Yedaya’s ambition is admirable, but as a huge fan of both La La Land and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Red Fields was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment.