Co-creator of the Israeli series “BeTipul”, which inspired “In therapy”, Nir Bergman delivers with “My Kid” the moving and true portrait of a father and his autistic son, over which the shadow of Charlie hangs. Chaplin. Encounter.
My Kid by Nir Bergman
Currently in the cinema
Aaron has dedicated his life to raising his autistic son Uri. Together, they live in a routine cut off from the real world. But Uri is now a young adult, with new wants and needs. While they are on their way to the specialized institute which is to welcome Uri, Aaron decides to run away with him, convinced that his son is not ready for this separation.
AlloCiné: How was “My Kid” born?
Nir Bergman : My Kid was written by Dana Idisis. She wrote about her own family, and her screenplay was born out of a fear she had: “What will happen when my father and my brother, who is autistic, have to go their separate ways?” I accompanied the writing, and the themes that are dear to me nourished it as we developed the story. For me, the film is basically about fatherhood, and how we seek to protect our children from the brutality of the world. In a way, it’s ultimately the creation of both of us. We share the film together, and our two lives are in it.
You say you were afraid to shoot this film? Why ?
I was scared because I liked the script so much. I cried every time I read it, and I was really afraid of spoiling the vision of Dana idisis. I know his father. I know his brother. I know the people who inspired the movie, and I was really afraid that I wouldn’t be up to the feelings and the level of the script.
Besides, I was really afraid of the subject itself, autism. When I watch films on the subject, I am always a little embarrassed. I really wanted to respect this subject. I wanted the audience to see Uri as an autistic person, and not to say to themselves: “Look at this actor, how he plays that”. On the contrary, I wanted the audience to see the character. To achieve this, I had to do a long job with the two actors, the father and the son, to work on their characters. I hope I managed to do it. I do not know.
Noam Imber is not autistic: how did you work on his interpretation to deliver something fair and not caricatured, and which is at the same time universal and particular?
It has been a long process for both of us. His first audition was brilliant. He had everything in him, especially the gestures. We asked him how he had managed to capture this. And it turned out that in his youth he had grown up near a center for autistic children run by his father. And because he’s a guy with a big heart, he became friends with these kids, so he kind of had that character in him. But it was only a question here of gestures, the way of being of the character. We had to build Uri.
To achieve this, we have worked a lot. We had in mind all the time the brilliant documentary that Dana idisis had done on his family and his brother doing his bar mitzvah. We also met parents who care for children with autism and who understand the special communication that is established between them. I wanted to show not the autism but the character, for the audience to see Uri behind the gestures and behavior. Understand that there is a very specific person who is full of love and humor. My goal was to show the way Aharon, the father, sees him. He doesn’t see his son as an autistic child, he sees Uri.
Tell us about the building of the character of Aharon, who is both protective with his son while keeping him in a state of dependence?
To build the character, we kind of tricked the audience into it. At the start of the film, you see life from Aharon’s point of view. You see him as a very good father taking care of his son. You see how protective but also imaginative he is and how he uses his imagination in his parenthood. You see his humor, too. And you really believe he’s the only one who can love Uri. The mother is presented a bit like “the wicked witch”, the one who wants to put Uri in an institution. We thus see Aharon as someone who sacrificed his life and his career to take care of his autistic son. We think he is the martyr, the saint of this story.
But as the film progresses, we understand that the reality is more complex. And maybe Aharon is using his son’s excuse not to see that his career is destroyed or that his relationship has deteriorated with his family and with his ex-wife. The more the film advances, the more we understand that this image is more nuanced and that this character is more complex. And that, perhaps, he gave up his career not because of his son, but because of who he is, because of the fact that he is too fragile for the world.
The station sequence is extremely powerful. What memories do you keep of it?
This is one of the only scenes that we have shot with a handheld camera. It is approached a bit like a documentary. Dana idisis wanted to show autism without “glory”. Usually, when the films present autistic characters, they put forward a talent, with the numbers, the painting or the music … But it was really important for her to show the daily life of autism. And this daily life is very difficult. And full of love. We wanted to show that through this scene at the train station, where people are parading on the platform as your kid throws himself on the floor because he doesn’t want to go anywhere. In the editing room, our producer saw it and told us it was too hard and needed to be shortened. The editor and I then felt the same thing: on the contrary, we felt that it would be a mistake to shorten this scene. It must be tough. It must be a scene where the audience is rightly saying to themselves: “It’s too hard”. Because that’s the reality, it’s too hard.
The shadow of Chaplin hangs over the film, through the title and excerpts from his films: what was the influence of his work on “My Kid”?
This is already due to the fact that the brother of Dana idisis had a period of his life when he adored Chaplin’s films. And that inspired her to use The Kid. If you watch Chaplin’s movie again and watch our movie, you will see that there are moments that we picked up, like references or inspirations, when they get away or when they lose the money for example.
Also, for me as a director, it helped me to describe the character of Aharon who is a bit like a sad Charlie Chaplin. We also tried to take inspiration from silent films, by removing the sound in a few scenes: you are with the characters, without sound effects, without dialogue, and you just see them with the music.
It was kind of like saying: look at them, they could have been in a silent movie. These two characters are a bit out of time. They’re on this train, but they’re not actually going anywhere. They’re just crossing the world, trying not to interfere with it, not to get in trouble. So that also inspired the staging.
You participated in the creation of “Betipul”: what do you think of its French adaptation “In therapy”?
I actually worked on the original Israeli series, Betipul, which was adapted in In Analysis in the United States and In Therapy in France. I haven’t seen the French version, but I heard from French friends that it was really good. I am very happy if this is the case. I just wish I could speak French to see her. I will try to get a captioned version, because it would be very interesting for me to see it. Betipul, it was a real journey in terms of writing, because we were all doing our own therapy, writing it in some way. But it was important then to move away from it, because as a screenwriter, it is not a very good exercise insofar as the character of the therapist is there to verbalize the subtext. So after a season I moved on.