In everyday Hebrew, the word ‘Tikkun’ means improvement or rectification,
However, the term ‘Tikkun’ has a more metaphysical meaning in Judaism.
The Jewish faith supports the idea of reincarnation – the belief in a soul’s cycle
or return to the world after biological death. ‘Tikkun’ refers to a soul returning
to the living world in order to rectify an unresolved issue from its past life;
to redeem itself before transitioning to the next world.
I started writing ‘Tikkun’ immediately after the premiere of my first feature film,
‘The Wanderer’, at Cannes Film Festival 2010. Within a month I had written
a treatment that was accepted to Torino Film Lab. I had no doubt that my next
film would also be set in the Jewish Ultra Orthodox world. Even before
I shot ‘The Wanderer’, my vision was to create a trilogy based on a yeshiva
scholar and his crisis of faith. Hence I was already mulling over the central
themes of ‘Tikkun’, back when I wrote ‘The Wanderer’. Like the treatment,
I wrote the first draft of the script extremely quickly. I always describe the
relationship between ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘Tikkun’ as an escalation: The film
‘Tikkun’ is more extreme in every respect, from the technicalities of shooting in
black and white, to its focus on the regimented lives of the Ultra-Orthodox.
The protagonist, Haim-Aaron lives in Me'a She'arim, one of the oldest Jewish
neighborhoods in Jerusalem. For the Hasidic population, life in Me'a She'arim -
close to the site of the Holy Temple - is in itself holy. Haim-Aaron is a student in
yeshiva (religious college). He is regarded as an ‘illui’ or prodigy, a rare
distinction given to yeshiva students for their extraordinary intelligence and
insight. An illui is likely to become an important Rabbi or community leader.
‘Tikkun’ is a story of life and death, set in a closed society with rigid, clear-cut
rules. At the start of the film, the lead character is an outstanding member of his
community. Later, he starts questioning its religious rules, driven by an urgent
need to challenge and deepen his faith.
The casting process lasted a year and a half, due to the enormous challenge of
finding the lead actor. I met with many talented actors but something was always
lacking. The more I researched, the more I wondered how I would manage to
bring a non-religious, professional actor anywhere close to the specific
mannerisms and dialect of a devout Hasidic Jew. Eventually we scouted
ex-yeshiva scholars who had left religion. We tried teaching them basic acting
techniques in the hope of discovering natural talent. Aharon Traitel, a former
Hasidic Jew, responded to our casting advert and after the first few auditions
I remained unsure about him. Then, unlike the other candidates, Aharon started
suggesting script amendments and guided me in my research on Ultra Orthodox
Jews. He also translated the relevant scenes to Yiddish. He had a hidden charm
that I needed to surface and trust in order for him to take on the main role.
It was a risk worth taking as, over time, Aharon became deeply entrenched in
the project and came to understand all the minutia of the story.
As a director, my most valuable document is my shooting script, which I write
alone. I need this kind of intimacy so I can write freely and unhampered,
imagining the film down to the last detail. For me, this is a lengthy process,
longer than scriptwriting, after which I embellish the script and the direction.
In addition, when writing the shooting script, I usually scout potential locations.
The first person I consult is my cinematographer, Shai Goldman, who, with his
rich experience, is the person to fine tune the shooting script, ahead of filming.
‘Tikkun’ had a scheduled 433 shots, 195 scenes, spread over 21 shooting days.