Etgar Keret: Based on a True Story is a biographical documentary about an amazing storyteller and his ability to find the extraordinary in everyday life.
If you don’t know Etgar Keret’s stories, you have certainly missed out on something. The Israeli writer is an incredible storyteller with a personality larger than life. His stories are surreal with surprising turns and unexpected endings. They seem to manifest something out of this world, yet they are about life as we know it. Keret’s stories make you wonder and reflect.
This hybrid documentary about Etgar Keret has, however, an unusual approach to an unusual writer. Mixing interviews, fiction scenes and animation, Etgar Keret: Based on a True Story (2018) is not the typical biographical film, but a highly entertaining portrait that captures Keret’s vibrant personality and his inner process of finding stories. Both the director Stephane Kaas, and the writer of the film Rutger Lemm, have known each other since high school and were at the time both reading Keret’s stories. Fifteen years later they decided to make this film about him, and the result transpires the inflicting excitement of two boys that grew up loving Keret’s work.
The film is an on going conversation with Keret and the people that matter to him. It gives a glimpse into Keret’s unusual character, his past, his life in Tel Aviv and his amazing capacity to see the extraordinary and the surreal in the most ordinary moments. Keret started writing in a very difficult moment in his life. While being in the army, his friend shot himself in the office where they were both working as part of the army service. This tragedy changed something inside him, and shortly after the tragic incident he wrote his first short story.
«Everyone needs to believe that there is more to life than crude realism.»
The story got the name Pipelines, and tells about a man who works in a pipeline factory where he one day starts playing with marbles, pushing them down pipelines just to see them roll out at the other end. He then starts experimenting; building even more sophisticated pipelines, until he one day discovers that the marbles disappear mysteriously through one of the pipelines. He then decides to design the same, but larger pipelines for himself, so that he can disappear as well. But when he comes out of the other side of the pipeline, he finds himself in a parallel world.
Keret has the ability to invoke a parallel world though all his stories and anecdotes. He never seems to run out of stories and is very convincing as it seems to us that he is living the stories he tells. This is a way for him to be fully present and make sense of life. A natural storyteller, his reality comes off as fluid, exchanging accurate accounts of events for fantastic interpretations that captivate the listeners.
Is Keret a liar? That is one of the questions arising in the film. His friends warmheartedly agree that he is. But what Keret really does is bending the line between reality and fiction in order to see the magical and the extraordinary in daily life. Eventually to find life’s meanings and to take life a a little less serious.
«Keret has the ability to invoke a parallel world though all his stories and anecdotes»
If Keret succeeds in fooling you, you would be happy to be fooled as his world essentially is like a play – all about curiousness and exploration. This man, now in his 50s, found a way to remain a little boy in a troubled world and maintaining his life alongside the never-ending tensions in Israel. Wouldn’t we all want to know the secret of how to accomplish that? Furthermore, Keret’s sensitivity comes to its surface during the film, sharing his, inner world and reflection of what it means to be human and to live life.
A sense of magic
How much reality and how much fiction his stories contains remains a question, but only a secondary one. Between finding the absolute truth and while traversing his stories, everyone will voluntarily follow him along, because his half-true storytelling spreads around the genuine feeling that everything is magical and possible.
Everyone needs to believe that there is more to life than crude realism. This portrait is an uplifting experience. It’s that kind of film that leaves you inspired and longing for more. In the end, Etgar Keret: Based on a True Story is as playful as its very subject, and by the end of the film, if you never read his stories, you will be running to the bookstore.