Directed By: Louis Joon
Starring: Zoe Dorman, Dave Disaster, Frederick William Park
Tag line: "If you could e-mail the dead"
Trivia: In The UK, this film had the alternate title Atheist Killer Goths
I love movies that bring something fresh to the table, which is exactly what director Louis Joon’s Learning Hebrew does. Subtitled A Gothsploitation Movie (making it the first of its kind), Learning Hebrew takes shots at religion, war, and philosophy, doing so in a smart, often abrasive manner that hits you like a punch to the gut. And while it may, at times, be a bit confusing, this 2013 film is guaranteed to hold your attention from start to finish.
The lead character / narrator of Learning Hebrew is Bella (Zoe Dorman), an atheistic gothgirl who, along with her best friend / bodyguard StudD (Dave Disaster), pushes Darwinism door-to-door. Among those in her inner circle (aside from StudD) are Magdalena (Annie Ososova), a goth who may not share Bella’s hatred of all things religious; and Pilot (played by director Louis Joon), an Iraqi war veteran whose PTSD is so severe that it’s got him believing he’s Pontius Pilot, the Roman Governor of Judea during the time of Christ. To make matters worse, Bella’s former guardian, Miss Jon (Frederick William Park), a transvestite who raised her from the time she was a little girl, is trying desperately to convince Bella to return home, something the pretty young Goth has thus far refused to do.
Throw in a vagrant / philosopher named Phil (Mike Barrington), who may be more than he seems, and a couple of violent militants (Glenn Walbridge and Emma Joon Dyer) calling themselves the Atheist Revolutionary Army, and you have one of the most unusual collection of characters you’re likely to ever come across.
Stylish and uncompromising, Learning Hebrew crams a lot into its 65-minute run time, including:
1. A direct assault on organized religion (Bella and her friends read books like “The God Delusion”, and the Atheist Revolutionary Army, in its attempt to enlighten the world, blows up a series of subway trains)
2. Flashbacks to both the Gulf War (Pilot, flying an Apache helicopter, is ordered to wipe out a group of civilians) and ancient Roman times (when a thief named Barabbas was put to death)
3. Some well-executed, high-energy club scenes (in one, Phil the vagrant shows off his dancing / light stick skills)
4. Moments of violence (most of which are directed at Pilot, who', along with being beaten up, is the target of an assassination attempt) and sex (at one point, StudD visits a dominatrix played by Juliana Reed who is willing to do anything and everything to keep her clientele happy).
In addition, Learning Hebrew has an excellent soundtrack, and its occasional nod to the 1976 BBC miniseries I, Claudius definitely brought a smile to my face.
Filled to its breaking point with Goth / underground references, and featuring diatribes on everything from the existence of God to the true nature of martyrdom, Learning Hebrew is one hell of an intense experience, and a movie that demands to be seen more than once.