We went to see the movie, ‘Nebraska,’ in Jerusalem’s Semadar cinema last Saturday afternoon. The auditorium, as well as the attached café, was full of secular Israelis of all ages and sizes enjoying the free-and-easy atmosphere there, untrammeled by the religious restrictions that characterize too many of Jerusalem’s cultural institutions.
However, not everyone in the cinema, in fact probably nobody except us, had actually ever been to Nebraska, let alone lived there for a year. Some might have driven through it on their way from one coast to the other, but that doesn’t really count.
We were at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, the state capital, during the 1984-85 academic year. The experience was one that has remained with all of us – parents and children alike – for good or for bad. We encountered people who were unbelievably kind, warm and welcoming, as well as weather that can only be described as catastrophic (arctic in winter, tropical in summer). Also, we were very happy to find that Nebraska is far from being a cultural desert, and we were able to enjoy several chamber and symphony concerts in Lincoln as well as in nearby Omaha.
Watching the movie, it was amusing to see the all-too-familiar monotonous scenery, as well as the weather-worn, salt-of-the-earth faces and figures of the characters, many of whom were in fact local inhabitants, not professional actors. Even when they were being nasty to one another, the Nebraskans did it with a certain modicum of kindness, without rancor or evil intent. Oh, of course avarice played a role in the behavior of some of the characters, but underlying it was a fundamental sense of camaraderie and affection
What we found particularly entertaining was the underlying concept of the film, namely, that for the somewhat confused and over-credulous old man who was the main character, Nebraska was perceived as some kind of Eldorado, a place where his dreams of riches would be fulfilled. In the event this does not happen, but in the course of his journey there, in the company of his son and other family members, he is exposed to the warmth and affection of those around him in a non-saccharine way, and that is something that is not always apparent in movies that are made in Hollywood. Perhaps that is the message of the film, namely, that the love of those around us, and our awareness of this, is the true pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
All-in-all, we enjoyed the movie and can recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind that it is totally devoid of sex scenes and contains only a very small amount of not-very-violent violence.