Carmel (DVD Review)

From Israel’s most important filmmaker , Carmel is Amos Kitai’s deeply personal and resonant meditation on Jewish and Israeli identity. Using both fiction and documentary techniques, Gitai links his family history to ancient history. Through a series of long takes, he re-enacts the Jewish-Roman wars that began in 66 A.D., and contrasts to the young soldiers enlisting in Israel’s army today, including his own son. The cycles of violence are never-ending, but so are the bonds of family. Carmel is narrated by Jean Moreau. 



As stated, Carmel is director Amos Gitai’s passion project that retraces his family’s history thousands of years ago. His realization is that age old truism of the more things change, the more they stay the same. The film starts off simply enough with Gitai standing on a beach and reciting a poem. The visual is pretty neat as he’s standing there the still images are dissolved over one another which looks great before it dissolves completely into a scene of the past. The costumed scenes are handled okay, but they’re done in dissolves which hides the low production value.

In those scenes the soldiers celebrate impending victory while the villagers gather to stand against those forces. It’s an alright display, but it reminded me of the History Channel. I’ve seen better. Carmel is not really a film driven by massive spouts of dialogue. There are very long scenes throughout the film where nothing is said for long stretches at a time. The most memorable one being that of a young lady who stares off into nothing in her house while classical music plays in the background. What’s the purpose of that scene? I don’t know, but she was very attractive, so I didn’t complain.

Other scenes have old men in a garage talking about two different things at the same time conversing while not actually having a conversation with each other. There are a group of very young soldiers who have fun flirting with each other (remember, the women in the Israeli army fight alongside the men) and talking on their cell phones and just beiung kids before having to suit up for combat. You can even here the warplanes fly overhead.  It’s pretty surreal. As you can see Carmel is a sort of a celluloid collage. I don’t think it was all supposed to make sense.

I am usually a fan of these types of films, but considering the fact the fact that’s been forever since I’ve actually seen a real experiment film like this – my first viewing kind of sucked which is why I had to put it away before getting back to it and making a much more informed opinion. Carmel really works on an aesthetic level than it does on a story level, because it’s not meant to be coherent or linear. It flashbacks all over the place and most of the time I don’t even know who is who.

If you’re feeling like trying something new and unique then Carmel may be right up your alley.


Carmel is presented in 480p (upscaled to 1080p) in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen. It’s an above average presentation considering it’s a DVD. Flesh tones look natural most of time depending on what the scenario calls for. Color are a bit in on the inconsistent side, but I think it was due to the changing weather patterns. One day it would be sunny and the next it would be drab and gloomy. It changed the way people looked. Contrast is blownout in certain scenes, grain levels are even, but black levels do crush more often than not. The positives barely outweigh the negatives, so the video specifications get a nice 3 dog rating.


Carmel is presented in 2.0 stereo. Carmel isn’t heavy on the exaggerated sonics, but does sound above average. Dialogue is clear through both front speakers and never interfere with each other. Even during scenes of violence or implied violence the track stays consistent. Ambient sounds also carry very well within the limited sound stage. Carmel is presented in Hebrew, French, and Arabic with English subtitles.


The supplemental section would have been the perfect section for the filmmakers and cast to shed some light on the project, but all we have are trailers to other films. Bummer.



I’ve watched Carmel twice now and I do have trouble sometimes figuring out what’s going on in some scenes. There are sections in the  film that are obviously autobiographical and then there are scenes that are entirely dramatized. Some of these scenes run into each other and it can get awfully confusing. This is no doubt a passion project as the director himself and his family make appearances, but the final piece could have been handled with bit more coherency. As it stands, Carmel is standard fare, but the lack of special features bring the grade somewhat. If a Blu-ray version of Carmel is ever released, I would hope that they load up on the special features for it.






Order Carmel on DVD!



Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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