Nadav Lapid (Israel, 1975) debuted with
Ha-shoter/ Policeman (2011) and
Haganenet/ The Kindergarten Teacher (2014).
Synonymes/ Synonyms (2019) is a comedy-tragedy with both ancient Greek
overtones and modern psychotic overtones, which is really the story of the
descent into madness of a former soldier traumatized by an endless permanent war.
On a cold winter day a young man enters an empty apartment of Paris
carrying just a backpack.
While he is in the shower, someone steals his belongings,
leaving him with nothing to wear.
He knocks at every door of the building but nobody opens.
Freezing, he warms up with hot water in the bathtub.
A young woman and a young man enter the apartment
and find him unconscious in the bathtub.
They basically save his life. When wakes up, they introduce each
other: they are Caroline and Emile and he is Yoav.
They give him clothes and money.
He gives Emile the ring that he wears on his lip, his only belonging.
Yoav moves to another apartment.
He buys a dictionary and practices his sentence of why he left Israel,
a country that he despises.
Emile is writing a book. They become close friends.
Every now and then Yoav share stories of his military service in Israel,
something that clearly traumatized him.
His voiceover tells us that he spent seven months in Paris during
which he cooked and ate the same meal every day.
Yoav is hired by the Israeli embassy as a security guard and trained to
watch out for Arab terrorists.
There is something mysterious about Emile who doesn't think he has much time
left to finish his book, and Caroline refuses to explain to Yoav.
A stranger, Michel, gives him a motorcycle ride, and talks to him
of his own past as a military trainer.
He writes his address on Yoav's hand.
Yoav hangs out with Yaron, another security guard of the embassy, who
is paranoid about terrorists hiding everywhere in France.
Yoav tells Yaron the story of Hector in Homer's Iliad, his childhood hero
after his parents told him the story.
A girl videocalls him from Israel.
He refuses to speak Hebrew to her who doesn't understand
French and then he hangs up.
Yaron and Yoav watch girls dancing in a bar.
Yaron, always suspicious of everybody, interrupts a couple who ignore him.
Yoav again tells the story of Hector that his parents told him as a child.
His voiceover as he walks alone in the street talks about the time
he killed an Arab terrorist with a machine gun.
Yoav takes the subway with Yaron, who
wears the orthodox Jewish cap and walks around suspicious of everybody
humming the national anthem,
while the passengers try not to see him.
Yoav introduces Yaron to Michel and they immediately start wrestling.
Then they stop and shake hands as if nothing happened.
Michel introduces himself as head of special operations.
He tells Yaron of an underground event in which
Jews armed with pitchforks battle Nazis with dogs. Yaron is eager
One day Yoav witnesses a long line of people waiting to enter the Israeli
embassy while it's raining.
Yoav snaps and lets everybody in,
and even covers a woman with his own jacket, all the time shouting
"there is no border". He
is taken away by the other security guards and fired.
Back home with Emile, they listen to Caroline play the oboe.
Emile tells Yoav mean things about her, in particular that she slept around
Yoav tells Emile of his passion for the story of Hector and Achilles.
We see an hallucination of a
car dragging Yaron in a busy street just like Achilles' chariot dragged Hector in the Iliad.
Yoav walks into Caroline's room and is mesmerized by Caroline's playing.
Looking for a new job, he writes an ad in a newspaper offering himself as
an artist's model. He follows a woman to a fancy bar where he tries to
steal snacks but suddenly everybody gets up and rushes to the middle
of the bar to dance at the loud music.
He crawls between their legs to the table with the snacks but
then he jumps up and starts dancing wildly, even taking his shirt off
as a sexy girl joins him.
At a park with Emile and Caroline,
she asks him if Yoav wanted to die when they first met him.
Caroline comes to visit him with the excuse that
she wants to introduce him to a girlfriend but
then kisses him and they sleep together. She says that she was attracted to
him from the first time.
Yoav donates his stories to Emile and
adds another one: when two female soldiers sang a showtune at a military
cemetery and his parents were watching.
Someone responded to his ad. A
photographer makes him strip naked and asks him to insert a
finger in his own anus. The photographer films
him having an orgasm and asks him to speak in Hebrew.
Later, his father calls: he is at the Paris airport to take him home.
Yoav, speaking English to him, tells him to go back to Israel.
Yoav leaves the house to make sure his father won't find him.
His father meets Emile and leaves gifts that Yoav refuses.
His father also tells Emile that Yoav was awarded a medal for heroism.
Yoav explains that
his grandfather refused to speak Yiddish after emigrating to Israel
and so he refuses to speak Hebrew now that he emigrated to France.
His father has followed them and only stares at him briefly to make sure he's
in good health.
Caroline visits again and they have sex again.
Emile summons them together and announces that he wants them to get married
so that Yoav can become a French citizen and stay in France forever.
Emile has already arranged for the wedding ceremony
and to begin the naturalization process.
Yoav attends a class for citizenship. A
Taiwanese girl is asked to recite the words of the French national anthem.
Then it's Yoav's turn and he does so as loud as possible.
The pervert photographer pays Yoav for another session and this time wants
him, dressed like an Israeli soldier, to make love to a Palestinian girl.
Instead Yoav enrolls in the French foreign legion and asks
Emile to return his stories.
Yoav attends again the class for aspiring citizens. The anticlerical
teacher emphasizes that God does not exist and
teaches them the values of the French republic.
Yoav attends a classical music concert in which Caroline performs. During the
break, however, he walks backstage and screams rudely at Caroline.
He mocks the naturalization examination and the values of the French republic
in the middle of the musicians. The musicians walk out silently ignoring him.
Caroline tells him that he is a mad as he keeps shouting that
he wants to save them.
They walk away silently ignoring his rant and walk
on stage where they start playing again classical music, indifferent to him.
She comes out for a few seconds to stare at him but doesn't say anything.
Later, He takes his backpack and walks in the street the same way he arrived
seven months earlier. He stops at Emily's place to say goodbye, but Emile does
not open. Yoav tries in vain to break the door.