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Questions for "Where Life Begins"

  • Esther and Elio are two individuals who are unhappy with the “yoke of their heritage" and the obligations of “family transmission.” Esther’s heritage is her Orthodox tradition whereas Elio’s is one of “intergenerational heritage.” In the press kit, the director writes about their side-by-side journey to “freedom” and the “heavy weight” of their particular heritages. What does each find burdensome about their heritages?*

  • While they both find their heritages to be burdensome, can you see any positive attributes regarding at least some aspect of their heritages? * 

  • In what ways can Esther rid herself of what is preventing her from “truly becoming herself”?

  • How can Elio rid himself of what is preventing him from “truly becoming himself”?

  • The director shares, “[Esther]…suffocates in a world in which she no longer believes, but still struggles with guilt and the fear to flee the world she knows.” What does Esther fear most? 

  • Esther cannot find the courage to leave Orthodoxy until she meets Elio. What about their interaction empowers her?

  • If Esther leaves Orthodoxy, how do you think her family will react? What personal challenges will arise upon her leaving her traditional lifestyle?

  • If you identify with a religion, are there any constraints that it imposes on you that you see as negative? Are there “constraints” (commandments/mitzvot) that you find beneficial/productive? 

  • The distributor’s press kit describes Esther’s wanting to move away from Orthodoxy as her desire for “freedom.” Can commandments bring us “freedom”? Explain your answer.

  • Do you think that she will ultimately move away from her family and leave Orthodoxy?  How do you think that Elio will redirect his life?

  • The director shares, “I want to bring to the screen the story of two human beings who walk humbly towards their freedom, by the grace of an encounter.”  Did you ever encounter someone who helped you “walk…towards your own freedom” or lifestyle change? 

* The director shares, “I imagined two characters who are diametrically opposed yet can also complement one another. These two human beings are in search of themselves and their truth…Both are enslaved: one is forced to become a farmer after the death of his father, clinging to the land where he grew up, to the furrows he kept digging and in which he buries himself a little more each day. The other is an Orthodox Jew, feeling crushed by a myriad of constraints. There is nothing heroic in these ordinary people, except maybe their yearning for freedom.”

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