HANNA K (director/writer: Costa-Gavras; screenwriter: Franco Solinas/from an original screenplay by Franco Solinas and Costa-Gavras; cinematographer: Ricardo Aronovich; editor:  Françoise Bonnot; music:  Gabriel Yared; cast: Jill Clayburgh (Hanna Kaufman), Gabriel Byrne (Joshua Herzog), Jean Yanne (Victor Bonnet), David Clennon (Amnon), Mohamed Bakri (Selim Bakri), Shimon Finkel (Professor Leventhal), Oded Kotler (The Stranger), Michal Bat (The Russian Woman), Dafna Levy (Dafna), Dan Muggia (Capt. Allenby-Bridge); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Costa-Gavras; Universal Pictures; 1983in English, Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles when necessary.  )

"A heavy-handed melodrama misfire."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A heavy-handed melodrama misfire on the Palestinian question plaguing Israel, with noted Greek left-wing filmmaker Costa-Gavras ("Z"/"Music Box"/"Mad City") taking a pro-Palestinian stance in this controversial political film that is undeveloped and decidedly one-sided. It's based on a story by Costa-Gavras and Franco Solinas, with the screenplay by Solinas offering a muddled story that has no resolution and receives an uneven treatment.

Hanna Kaufman (Jill Clayburgh) is a Jewish-American lawyer living in Tel Aviv and practicing law there. While in Paris she married the wise philosophical Frenchman Victor Bonnet (Jean Yanne). When we first see her, Hanna is living in Jerusalem and has long been separated and has become pregnant over casual sex with the Zionist Joshua Herzog (Gabriel Byrne), the district attorney from Jerusalem, someone she doesn't love. While the annoying Hanna wrestles whether to have the baby or not, she's appointed by the court to defend the Palestinian Selim Bakri (Mohamed Bakri), accused of being a terrorist when found by the army hiding in a well in a Jerusalem home blown up by the army.

There are two trials in Jerusalem. After proving in the first trial that Selim has been illegally entering Israel not to plant bombs but to reclaim his family's ancestral home, supposedly illegally seized by the Israeli Government, she also acts as his lawyer in the second one. In this one Selim sues Israel for the right to live on his ancestral land in Israel that was seized. Hanna defends her client by saying it's Israel's policies on Arab refugees that should be on trial.

This unpopular stance for a Jewish Israeli makes Hanna a target for phone call threats, and she's accused by her enemies of being a danger to Israel because of her idealism. Thereby Hanna responds by taking Selim into her home as her new lover and confidante. With this explosive set-up some fireworks is anticipated, instead nothing happens but a dry didactic dissertation on modern Israel history.

The schematic film, scripted with a political agenda to fit the director and writer's leftist anti-Israel political beliefs, never can be taken seriously as desired, as its characters don't seem like real people but puppets manipulated by the filmmaker. Even if you agree with the filmmaker's questionable and not fully explored views, the film itself is inert and makes for a bad watch.

REVIEWED ON 2/27/2014       GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"