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Cryptic, associative, fast-paced, physical, and generally extreme: young Israeli Yoav (Tom Mercier) tries to shed his cultural identity and become French in Paris. The 2019 Golden Bear winner.


Young Israeli Yoav (Tom Mercier) tries to shed his cultural identity in Paris and become French. He fled his country in complete disillusionment after his military service. Biting humor meshes with his resistance to ever speak his own language. Instead, Yoav reads the French dictionary from A to Z and absorbs as much of Parisian life as he can, including a sexy three-way relationship with a French intellectual couple. The image speed flashes as quickly as the period of time it takes Yoav to conquer the city: the mystery of a life that tries to escape its roots grows.

SYNONYMS was the winner of the Golden Bear this year and represents the balancing act between an arthouse film and entertainment which the Berlinale goes for year after year. Though it‘s definitely not fit for the masses, the pace, physicality, and general starkness turns the two hour satire into a kind of popcorn movie. At the same time, SYNONYMES is very similar to the Berlin school films, it was co-produced by Maren Ade after all: cryptic and associative, with contrived dialogue like Yoav‘s meaningful monologues as he searches for a synonym for every word. SYNONYM is about the search and renunciation of home, culture, and destiny. The film could be chided for making topics like migration, terrorism, and escape seem strangely aesthetic. But at the same time it also offers the opportunity to look at things differently, in a way that‘s more radical, poetic, and impulsive.

Anna Hantelmann

Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Synonymes
Frankreich, Israel, Deutschland 2019, 123 min
Language: French, Hebrew, English
Genre: Drama
Director: Nadav Lapid
Author: Nadav Lapid
DOP: Shai Goldman
Distributor: Grandfilm
Cast: Quentin Dolmaire, Tom Mercier, Louise Chevillotte, Chris Zastera
FSK: 12
Release: 05.09.2019




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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