Skip to Content

TJFF 2012: ‘This Is Sodom’ is everything the name suggests

This Is Sodom

Directed by Adam Sanderson and Muli Segev

Written by Muli Segev, David Lifshitz and Asaf Shalmon

Israel, 2010

At an arranged marriage, a Rabbi tries to break the ice by telling a joke.

“Why was the first man the happiest?” he asks.

No one answers.

“Because he didn’t have a mother-in-law!”

No one laughs.

The rabbi has the decency to recognize his pathetic attempt at humour and stops. Israel’s biggest blockbuster in 25 years, This is Sodom, however, doesn’t – resulting in an overproduced, underwritten excuse for a comedy, lasting an interminable 88 minutes.

The film opens with a door-to-door salesman, named ‘god’, selling a new religion to a man named Abraham. To prove his omnipotence, the salesman promises the destruction of Sodom, the most famous Sin City in history.

However, Abraham protests, informing god of his nephew, Lot, who is the one righteous man in the city. As a compromise, god gives an ultimatum – Lot has three days to get out of Sodom before the city, and everyone in it, is destroyed.

At first, the film shows a lot of promise. The exchanges between god and Abraham prove to be both funny and satirical, shedding light on the farcical dogmas of contemporary religions.

In one instance, Abraham is eating shrimp. Not wanting to share with the salesman, he gorges them all in one swift moment, proclaiming that there isn’t any left. God, clearly perturbed, makes a note of it in his notebook.

From these interactions, we come to expect a Monty Python style of a biblical farce, but instead, when the film focuses on Lot and his story, we get another Year One type of disaster.

The film’s central premise (which should’ve been called Escape from Sodom) starts like a simple Saturday Night Live sketch, and it indeed feels like one. Much of the jokes rely on ill thought out puns, while the gags and physical humour can be extremely ridiculous and juvenile.

It’s as if the writers, if you can call them that, came up with a series of biblical-era sketch comedies and attempted to paste them together. You literally know when you’re being told a joke because the film will stop the narrative in order to tell you it.

What’s worse, the few jokes that slightly work are gratuitously repeated, until they become as repetitive and tedious as the rest of the film.

This hurts the movie immensely because it betrays its initial intelligence. There are some instances of social commentary, but because the film’s tone is so fatuous and infantile, it’s hard to take them seriously, no matter how pertinent or insightful they may be. Furthermore, the banter between god and Abraham, when looked at retrospectively, seems out of place by comparison.

This Is Sodom commits the cardinal sin of being an unfunny comedy. Even so, the film is recognized as Israel’s biggest blockbuster in 25 years, with the directors, Adam Sanderson and Muli Segev, drawing comparisons to Monty Python and Mel Brooks. But thou shall not bear false witness; a more apt comparison is to say that they’re the Israeli equivalent of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.

– Justin Li

Visit the official website for the TJFF