That is the question that preoccupied me throughout my viewing of Footnote, an Israeli film, nominated for an Oscar (Best Foreign Language Film) in 2012. The story concerns a father and son, both scholars in Jerusalem, both working in essentially the same area of research, and both lacking any capacity (so it appeared) to share even a word with each other.
I don’t want to give away the twists and turns of the plot. Suffice to say the Father (a self-described philologist) has accomplished little if anything in his sequestered career). For that and other reasons he is contemptuous of his son’s academic prowess, reputation, and accomplishments. Not envious, by any means. Just downright contemptuous.
When the son confronts a situation that he believes could destroy what’s left of his father’s self-respect, he comes to his father’s defense, sacrificing much. Yet he never reveals this to his father, nor to anyone but his mother, whom the viewer believes keeps it secret. Since the distance between the two men was so remote, I wondered what the son would even say to his father if he could summon the courage to share this vital information with him.
Throughout the film other important conversations between family members go unspoken and their relationships grow apart. The only memorable conversation is between the son and other academics which goes from bitterly antagonistic to comically physical.
Footnote left me thinking how about the many conversations that have gone unspoken in my own and others’ lives – conversations that might burnish a relationship or two, but will likely remain unsaid.